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County has top GED pass rate

January 11, 2000|By BRUCE HAMILTON

Washington County has the highest percentage of people passing the General Educational Development (GED) test in the state, according to statistics released by the Maryland State Department of Education.

The pass rate at the county's testing center, Hagerstown Community College, was 75.42 percent for the 12-month period that ended June 30, 1999. Frederick County's rate was a close second with 75.25 percent.

The state average was 52.5 percent.

The Maryland State Department of Education computes pass rates by dividing the number of people who passed by the total tested, minus incompletes.

Several factors contribute to the pass rate, including the number of people tested.

In Baltimore City, 611 people passed compared to 132 in Hagerstown. But 2,018 people took the test in Baltimore and 178 took it locally.

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Linda Vestal, a teacher at the Washington County Board of Education's Adult Education Office, said local test takers get strong schooling. "The instructional level in our school system helps them achieve the GED," she said.

The GED program offers credentials to people who don't graduate. It is generally considered the equivalent of a high school diploma. But a third of today's high school seniors could not pass the GED, Vestal said.

The American Council on Education, which sponsors the program, sets the minimum standard score required to earn a GED diploma.

Since the GED program began in 1942, more than 13 million people have used it to get diplomas, according to the council. Each year, about 800,000 adults take the 71/2-hour test at 3,400 sites. About 500,000 pass.

The GED tests are given throughout Maryland on the second Saturday of each month. To take the test, a candidate must submit an application and $25 registration fee to the Maryland State Department of Education by the 15th of the previous month.

To be eligible, an applicant must be age 16 or older and have not graduated from high school. He or she must have been a Maryland resident for at least three months at the time of testing.

Those under 18 must be officially withdrawn from high school for three months or more.

For an application or more information, call the School Board's Adult Education Office at 301-766-8460.

The office gives practice tests for a $10 fee and offers preparatory classes for $30. The classes meet on Tuesday and Thursday evenings for six weeks. To enroll, students must first take the practice test.

Vestal said her office recommends whether to take the official GED test based on practice test scores. Of those who are recommended, about 97 percent pass, she said. Vestal said that may contribute to the county's high pass rate.

Several schools and agencies such as the Western Maryland Consortium are involved in the local GED program, Vestal said. Washington County's preparatory classes are less expensive than those in some other areas. Vestal said Howard County's course costs $130.

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