Despite not going through high school, students who drop out can pursue a high school equivalency diploma (GED), but the equivalency test is about to get harder starting in January 2014.
According to Julia Harte of City Limits, the non-profit American Council on Education used to produce the GED exam. However, the council partnered with Pearson Inc. in 2011 to form a for-profit company called GED Testing Service. The new company will introduce a more rigorous version of the exam that emphasizes analytical thinking and wider factual knowledge with the test being rolled out in January of the coming year.
Spokesman CT Turner believes that increasing the rigor of the exam was a "moral imperative" for the council as he says that the changes are designed to "help some adults move from being a high-school dropout to being prepared for a middle-scale job, which is what most of these people will need if they really want a decent-paying job".
A 2010 study by Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce shows that only 9% of the 47 million new jobs estimated to open between 2008 and 2018 will be available to people without a high school diploma.
However, the new GED faces an uphill task to stabilize as 12 states haven't accepted the new test. New York was the first state to reject it, citing that it was expensive to administer the test – approximately $120 per student, which is double the previous cost. New York State shoulders the cost of administering the exam as residents take the test for free.
According to a June 2013 report from the state education department, an alternative exam "similar to the present GED" was developed by New York State. Unlike the present GED, it will measure foundational concepts in a set of language and mathematics skills developed in 2010 by U.S. governors and state commissioners of education — the material outlined in the Common Core State Standards.
The numbers of students rushing to take GED exams before they change have ballooned according to the education department. Between November 2012 and June 2013, 12.1% more GED tests were administered in New York than the previous year.
In reference to the official website, the 2013 GED Campaign to Finish has been launched by the Fund for Public Advocacy, the non-profit branch of New York City's public advocate office, given that students will have to "start over" to begin studying for the new exam. Before its unavailability come 2014, the campaign sought to identify 3,000 people who almost passed the GED and to make sure at least 75% of them pass the current exam.
However, Paula Gavin, the Fund's CEO, says that the new exam "is absolutely going to be more difficult, because the common core standards are more difficult".
According to John Higgins of The Seattle Times, the makers of the new exam say it will track the Common Core learning standards that 45 states have adopted and better gauge the critical thinking and problem solving skills many employers seek. Additionally, without GED certificate, dropouts are no longer eligible for the federal aid many need to earn a job-training certificate or degree, thus making the value of the certification higher than ever.