by Max Brantley
I'm off to Stuttgart. You're on duty. Final words:
* BLANCHED: Will Mike Huckabee's claim that President Obama is making war on women by replacing some female cabinet members with women move Blanche Lincoln to the top of the line for Ag secretary, should Tom Vilsack not stay on? Would Lincoln take the pay cut? Does anybody much care? Arkansas voters apparently thought having a woman (Lincoln) chair the Senate Ag Committee wasn't worth beans.
* HALL OF SHAME: A mention by Wally Hall in the morning paper prompts a complaint that the ARKANSAS Sports Hall of Fame had voted in a Buffalo, N.Y., man who's never lived in Arkansas but whose family has long owned a gambling den in West Memphis. Fair question. I wonder if Hall's sports department has written a sports story in the last five years about that gambling den, primarily a casino now, but also one of the final holdouts in the declining gambling activity of greyhound racing. Maybe the Southland casino's contribution of $300,000 to a hall of fame building project had something to do with the selection of Southland's corporate boss, Jeremy Jacobs over some real Arkies. Paid $50 memberships in the hall qualify for votes, after all, so $300,000 should have been good for, what, 6,000 votes? Jacobs' selection figures in recent reports of internal tension at the hall that include an arrest, but still no formal state charges, of an employee over alleged misuse of a hall credit card. That matter may not go away quietly, I hear.
* GUN NUTTERY AND THE HUCKSTER AND THE NRA: Not too late if you missed it to watch Tuesday's Daily Show, a brilliant full show on addressing gun violence. Mike Huckabee, often treated too kindly by Jon Stewart, gets a deserved pasting for his remark that America's problem isn't guns but "sin."
Better still, the NRA has issued its unilateral dismissal of White House efforts to do something about gun safety. I think they misread even the Arkansas public with their mean bullheadedness. The NRA screed:
The National Rifle Association of America is made up of over 4 million moms and dads, daughters and sons, who are involved in the national conversation about how to prevent a tragedy like Newtown from ever happening again. We attended today's White House meeting to discuss how to keep our children safe and were prepared to have a meaningful conversation about school safety, mental health issues, the marketing of violence to our kids and the collapse of federal prosecutions of violent criminals.
We were disappointed with how little this meeting had to do with keeping our children safe and how much it had to do with an agenda to attack the Second Amendment. While claiming that no policy proposals would be “prejudged,” this Task Force spent most of its time on proposed restrictions on lawful firearms owners - honest, taxpaying, hardworking Americans. It is unfortunate that this Administration continues to insist on pushing failed solutions to our nation's most pressing problems. We will not allow law-abiding gun owners to be blamed for the acts of criminals and madmen. Instead, we will now take our commitment and meaningful contributions to members of congress of both parties who are interested in having an honest conversation about what works - and what does not.
* DEATH IN THE ARK. TIMES FAMILY: I have to leave early today and since Arkansas Business broke the news publicly, why not give them a link on a business setback at Arkansas Times? Heather Baker, publisher of our free used car weekly, Auto Buyer, left us after 11 years to start her own auto publication and took sufficient goodwill that our boss Alan Leveritt has decided to end weekly publication of the print edition of Auto Buyer. Michelle Miller, who manages our special publications, will take command of the Auto Buyer website and other magazines with which Baker worked. Three employees lost jobs because of the end of Auto Buyer print publication.
* DEATH AT THE ZOO: Nyla, the Little Rock Zoo's 20-year-old lion, died Tuesday evening of liver cancer. She'd been at the zoo more than 12 years and had outlived most lions, the zoo said. She batted a large ball around in her yard. She came from a Missouri zoo in 2000 with a female companion, which survives, along with another male added in 2008.
* CHANGES COMING IN GED TEST: I linked here earlier a report by Jacqueline Froelich at KUAF about national changes in testing for the high school equivalency program that likely means future test takers will have to pay for the test as well as switch to all-computerized testing. The state Department of Career Education has now issued a news release on the topic warning of the potential for change. Could the legislature be encouraged to keep Arkansas as one of a few states that make GED testing free as an incentive to students? A thought. Only a thought. News release follows on the jump.
CAREER EDUCATION NEWS RELEASE
Arkansas is one of a few states that offers the General Educational Development (GED®) test at no cost to the student, but because of changes on the national level that require state-level compliance, that is likely to change, says Janice Hanlon, Arkansas’s GED Administrator.
The program is under the authority of the Arkansas Department of Career Education and serves Arkansans who are 16 years or older, not enrolled in or graduated from high school, and who meet other state requirements regarding residency and testing eligibility.
“The GED® test is undergoing a significant change in Arkansas and in the entire country,” Hanlon said.
“Every few years, the GED Testing Service® begins a new testing series. We’ve been using the same test module since 2002, but in January 2014 — one year from now — the test will be updated to reflect the common core educational standards required of today’s high school graduates.”
Those standards include problem solving, computer skills and more advanced math skills. When a student earns a GED® diploma, they are expected to have knowledge and skills equivalent to current-day graduating high school seniors.
“Those who have taken the current 2002 Series GED® test, but not passed all five parts, have until the end of 2013 to pass or they will need to start over again in 2014 with the new GED® test in order to receive their high school credential,” said Hanlon. “So we want to be sure that everyone is aware of this deadline. GED® test-takers must act now to finish and pass before the current test expires.”
In addition to the content itself, the test-taking method will change according to national standards. The new test battery will be administered by computer, no longer by pencil and paper, beginning in January 2014.
Requiring computer-based testing is part of the effort to ensure those who graduate with a GED® credential are ready for the demands of today’s workforce.
“Basic computer literacy is a must for most anyone who hopes to get a job or advance in today’s work environment. Our adult education centers are already helping their students with computer literacy and will incorporate those skills into their GED® preparation classes,” Hanlon said.
The other big change coming at that time is the cost. Beginning in January 2014, the GED® test and diploma may no longer be free in Arkansas.
“Our adult education centers across the state will be equipped with the proper computer-based testing environment in order to comply with the new national requirements, but that’s not where the cost comes in,” Hanlon said.
The new test battery to be released in 2014 is being managed and produced by the GED Testing Service®, as in the past, but they have formed a new partnership with Pearson, a global leader in education and testing. The new GED® program they’ve developed will not only reflect the common core standards, but will include a new feature that will indicate college and career readiness.
Test-takers will be provided with a report showing their proficiency in various academic skills. That personalized inventory will help guide the student as they pursue postsecondary education or a new job by highlighting their strengths and areas that need improvement.
As it is currently, the same test battery is administered nationwide, but how each state handles the funding and whether test-takers pay a fee varies.
“The new test will cost more money than Arkansas has traditionally been able to absorb, therefore, some of the test’s costs may be borne by the student in the future,” Hanlon said.
Exactly how much a GED® diploma will cost each student remains to be seen but it could be as much as $120.
“I sincerely doubt Arkansas will be able to bear the entire cost of the test starting in 2014,” Hanlon said. Until then, preparation for the GED® and taking the test are free for Arkansans through the adult education centers around the state. After that, changes are coming.
“We want to let our current and prospective students know, and those who might have started and not completed their GED® credential, that there’s still time for them to complete it before the change. We’ve adopted the national tagline to encourage students to get started — ‘Your Future is Calling. Answer the call by finishing your GED® by the end of 2013 and get started on the life you deserve.”
Contact information for Arkansas’s adult education centers and about the GED® test can be found in the Adult Education section of the agency’s website, http://ace.arkansas.gov, or by calling 501-682-1980.
The GED Testing Service® has established a special website about the closeout of the 2002 test. Students can get information, as well as sign up for text and email alerts: http://www.gedtestingservice.com/finishtheged