The Census Bureau reports that 25 million adult Americans lack a high school diploma or the equivalent. The GED became a tool used by adults who dropped out of or missed high school, writes Eric Schulzke for the Deseret News, but now the old GED has been replaced.
The for-profit company that altered it also made it more complicated and costlier. New to the high school equivalency domain are two other alternative tests, giving states the opportunity to use different combinations of the three programs. No matter which test is used, career and education experts say that adult education is only successful if it pushes students the extra mile.
“The diploma is not sufficient,” said Amy Dalsimer, director of pre-college academic programming at La Guardia College. “With economic changes and the up-scaling of work expectations, we need a high school completion model that can be a springboard to career readiness or post-secondary schooling.”
When the Common Core was adopted by most states, it became necessary for the GED to match up with the new standards. The more difficult format and the increased expense of the updated tests were not well-received by advocates for the disadvantaged. As a result, the GED’s competitors came up with assessments that cost less and incorporated Common Core changes more slowly. However, Nobel laureate James J. Heckman, an economist at the University of Chicago, says the HSE (formerly GED) cannot replace the experience of being a participating member of a classroom.
In a paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research, Heckman and his colleagues pointed out that those who drop out of or fail high school can be handicapped by “lack of persistence, low self-esteem, low self-efficacy and a high propensity for risky behavior.” Heckman adds that prepping a student to take a test “is a poor substitute for actual learning.”
The La Guardia program places students on career and content tracks in addition to preparing them for the exam. These students are more than twice as likely to pass the exam and three times more likely to go on to college.
Students in Pennsylvania take a computer-based GED test, which began in 2014, aligned more toward workforce needs, says Trib Total Media’s Debra Erdley. This change was not easy for many students who said it was too difficult, and some decided not to take the test. In 2013, 22,868 people took the test and 17,654 passed. Just 3,654 people completed the test in 2014, with 2,196 earning a GED.
The new test forced the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council to improve its adult education efforts for older GED candidates, partly because some lacked keyboarding expertise. The council understood that students needed basic skills to tackle the test, the passing of which has the power to give these students an “economic lifeline.”
A Houston Chronicle article by University of Houston Downtown Testing Center Director Po-Chu Leung includes her opinions surrounding the new GED curriculum in Pearson’s General Education Development test (the GED), the only high school equivalency test given in Texas. Because the new test is too expensive and more difficult, there has been a significant decrease in the number of test-takers since 2014. In 2014, 22,000 fewer people took the test than in 2012.
Members of the Board of Education voted to seek proposals from other vendors besides Pearson, the British education company that developed the GED Testing Service, along with the non-profit American Council on Education. Although some employers are wary of alternative tests, the value of the equivalency certificate remains the same. Texas ranked 50th in the nation in 2012 for the most adults 18 to 64 who lack a high school diploma or an HSE.
And in Ohio, 86% fewer people obtained their GED last year, with state officials saying a rebound is nowhere in sight. Between 2000 and 2013, an average of 16,500 Ohians received GEDs. This year, the state is on track to award about 3,700 GED certificates. In 2014, just 2,164 were awarded, according to Bill Bush of The Columbus Dispatch.
The GED Testing Services tripled the price of the test, charged for practice tests for the first time, and changed to a computer-only model. Other states such as Indiana chose another service, the Test Assessing Secondary Completion (TASC) developed by McGraw-Hill. The percentage of people who passed the TASC was very close to the number who passed the test before the change-over.