OWATONNA — Owatonnans hoping to finish their General Educational Development tests will have to hurry to sign up for the final testing date at the Roosevelt Community Education building before the slate is wiped clean in January of 2014.

Starting on Jan. 1, the test — commonly known as the GED — will be changing in order to align closer to the federal high school graduation standards, known as the Common Core.

The local GED testing site at Roosevelt Community Education is a satellite office of the Faribault testing center. The site currently offers classes, practice testing, and GED testing at its adult education center. But things will be shifting soon with the changes coming to the GED.

“Currently, we offer three afternoons of preparation classes for the GED,” said Cathy Quam, an adult basic education teacher at Roosevelt. “But because the GED is being changed to online only, we may have to take one of those afternoons for digital literacy.”

As of now, GED testing at Roosevelt is done on pencil and paper, with calculators and scratch paper allowed for certain tests. But after the first of the year all of those things will have to go online. This brings up problems for older students who are not as familiar with computers and typing.

“We have a wide variety of students who come here to get their GED,” said Deb McDermott-Johnson, director of community education. “We’ve had seniors in their 80s come in to test as well as teenagers who just didn’t work well in the public-school culture and needed another option.”

Teenagers wishing to take the GED must be more than 16 years of age and not currently enrolled in school to be eligible for the GED services.

“We always encourage students stay in school,” said McDermott-Johnson. “But it just isn’t an option for some of them. Here we’re used to the challenges that come with students who are dealing with life — family, jobs or personal issues.”

The changes coming in January will affect any of the students currently preparing for or taking the five tests that make up the GED. The scores and progress are wiped clear at the beginning of the 2014 in order to transition to the new system.

Some of the changes to the test itself include a shift from a multiple choice-heavy test to one more focused on short essay answers and critical thinking.

“It will require a bigger commitment from the students,” said Quam. “We always aim at helping the students going for a degree become ready for college. We want them to go straight into credit-earning classes in college.”

Another way the overall GED system is changing is a higher price in the smaller towns like Owatonna. Currently, the test is $60, but as of Jan. 1 it will cost students $120 to take the test — money they won’t see if they miss the test.

“Right now if students miss the testing date they signed up for, the money is kept for them in case they come to sign up for a new day,” said Kim Reyant, adult learning center supervisor. “After the new system starts the money will be gone once they miss their testing date.”

A similar financial change is the practice test system. Currently, the tests are paid for by the adult education center and are free for the students. But once the new system is in place, each practice test will cost $5 to $15.

All of these changes have made for a busy few months at Roosevelt. Instead of having one testing day per month, as is usual, the site has had two testing days each month of fall in order to accommodate the students trying to finish their GED before the changes take place.

“We’re been really working on reaching out,” said McDermott-Johnson. “Our last testing date is Dec. 18, but it has limited space and needs to be signed up for ahead of time.”

For Minnesota, these changes mean a re-evaluation of the GED system. On Dec. 6 there is an adult secondary credential statewide meeting that will look at not only the GED, but at similar tests such as the Test Assessing Secondary Completion and the High School Equivalency Test.

The state may choose to stick with the GED or move on to another program, but either way Roosevelt is ready to accommodate anyone in Owatonna looking to further his or her education.

“We’re hoping to register as an independent testing site if the state stays with the GED,” said McDermott-Johnson. “But we have to wait until after the meeting in December to see what’s going to happen.”

Reach reporter Peter Byrne at 444-2372 or follow him on Twitter.com @OPPpbyrne

Reach reporter Peter Byrne at 444-2372 or follow him on Twitter.com @OPPpbyrne