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York is only GED test site in boro open to all: Beep

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With only one GED test site in Queens for anyone who wants to obtain a high school diploma, Queens Borough President Claire Shulman is calling for the state Education Department to add more sites and relieve the stress on the York College testing center in Jamaica.

The York site, which is run by the Queens Educational Opportunity Center, made special arrangements over the summer to test the more than 2,500 applicants waiting to take the General Equivalency Diploma in June.

The GED offers the equivalent of a high school diploma to people who have dropped out of school or did not attend school in this country.

“Currently, there is only one test site in Queens that is open to the public,” said Borough President Claire Shulman. “Instead of taking the GED exam, people are being placed on long waiting lists, thereby forestalling college and employment opportunit­ies.”

During the past school year, Springfield Gardens High School also offered the GED and will resume giving the test next month, according to the Education Departments’s web site.

There are other testing sites in Queens, but they are not affiliated with the Education Department.

Over the summer, the Queens Educational Opportunity Center at York felt the full burden of providing these exams, said the center’s director, Khayriyyah Abdul Lateef.

“As a result of this, we have been inundated with telephone calls and inquiries,” Lateef said. “We receive 30 to 35 applications a day.”

Applications to take the GED come to the center from all over Queens and other boroughs because there are only about 12 testing site in the whole city, Lateef said.

Shulman wrote a letter to Jean Stevens, the state’s education assistant commissioner, asking for more testing sites to offer the exam to the general public.

In her letter, Shulman described the GED as possibly “the only path towards admission to college or successfully competing in the workplace.”

The Education Department did not provide a comment by press time.

Meanwhile, the small testing site at York has been overwhelmed by the flood of applications, Lateef said.

In August alone, the center has tested 900 applicants, as many as generally tested in one year, Lateef said.

During the school year, the center had been offering the test twice a month to about 40 to 45 students in a small testing site.

Summer testing usually only happens once a month, but this year the center asked York to provide additional space for mass-testing and then offered the exam at least twice a month.

The center tested 400 people over the Aug. 11-12 weekend by using the college’s gymnasium.

“It went off beautifully, but it took 12 hours each time,” Lateef said. “We enjoy being able to be a testing site, but we are eager for more to open.”

Lateef said forcing test-takers to wait not only discourages them, it gives them time to forget what they have learned in GED-preparation courses.

“A lot of academic effort can be wasted,” she said.

The preparation courses are crucial to passing the test on the second try, Lateef said. Fewer than 40 percent of GED takers in the city pass each test, but the scores are saved so that students can keep the highest score in each subject and apply those scores to future tests, she said.

But this practice will change at the end of the year when the exam will be completely rewritten. This change will probably motivate students to take the test again and try to pass it before the end of the year, thus imposing another strain on the York testing site, Lateef said.

“They will have to start from zero and it will be more challenging to pass,” Lateef said of the new test. “Given that, people will be trying harder to take the test this year.”

If the center is inundated with applicants, there may be another mass-testing before the end of the year, but for now the center’s staff is pretty burned out, Lateef said.

This fall the center will return to its previous schedule of 40 to 45 students tested twice a month, a regime that will probably result in another backlog, Lateef said.

Reach reporter Betsy Scheinbart by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300 Ext. 138.

Posted 7:22 pm, October 10, 2011
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