The train's headlamp is shining on the tracks in the distance and you know it is coming, but you can't stop it. That is the feeling I have about the looming crisis of the change in General Equivalency Diploma testing that is occurring Jan. 1, 2014, and the impact it will have on our community.
What's happening is a perfect storm of the continued closure of adult education programs and testing centers in the Central Valley and a pressing need for people to complete their GED before the test changes. Simply put, all progress GED students have made up to now that has not resulted in passing the test will be voided. In other words, if students get to Dec. 31 and haven't passed the test, they will have to start over.
If you haven't started the process of testing for the current test version by the beginning of November, the Stanislaus County Office of Education won't schedule you to take this test; you will have to sign up for the new test in January. Seats will fill up before that because Madera's test center is no longer open, Merced has limited its hours and the only other test center in the Central Valley south of Sacramento is Stockton.
The new GED test will be more difficult to pass and will require keyboarding and other digital literacy skills that many people will have to spend time learning. People who have been telling themselves "someday" should make that day "today."
Another concern is the lack of opportunity for GED test tutoring. Turlock Adult School has closed its GED classes, leaving another void. You can count on one hand the places where GED preparation takes place in Stanislaus County and they all are full.
With 30 percent of Stanislaus County adults lacking a diploma, there simply are not enough opportunities for adults to get the education they need to obtain a high school equivalency diploma. Those of us left in adult education are not going to be able to do it without further funding, more volunteers and space for classes and computer labs.
Let's not wait until the crossing arms are down and the train is blocking the path. Do something between now and Nov. 1 to get people registered and ready to test. We need the community to come together in this effort. It will take all of us working together to make this happen.
We need educational institutions, nonprofits, churches and community members to help. It's not too late, but soon it will be. I'll be happy to work with anyone who wants to find solutions before time runs out.
Williams is executive director of the Stanislaus Literacy Center.