The Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) voted 14-0 on Wednesday to look at alternatives to the redesigned high school equivalency exam, the General Education Development (GED). Education advocates, test-takers and teachers testified before the board this week to discuss the many problems associated with the latest version of the nearly 70-year-old test.
For starters, the fee for the test spiked from $80 to $135 since acquired and reformed by Pearson, the British publishing and testing giant closely associated with with Common Core. The purpose of the GED is to give high school dropouts and adult students a second chance at furthering their education or career opportunities. But this becomes an obstacle when the price becomes cost prohibitive.
The Texas Tribune reports the new GED is too difficult for a high school equivalency exam and resembles a college entrance exam, critics told the board on Tuesday.
According to the Houston Chronicle, Pearson issued a statement addressing the newfound level of difficulty, saying the new GED was purposefully designed to place students on a path to college or other career training.
“Given that today’s best jobs require at least basic technology skills, the GED is now administered in a way that exercises those skills, along with a test taker’s knowledge of the curriculum.”
The statement added, “There is no doubt the GED test is rigorous. Our adult learners compete with high school graduates for jobs and entry into college and job training programs. To hold these adults to a lower standard would be doing them a great disservice.”
Pearson administers the new GED only by computer. Proponents of other equivalency exams want to see paper formats reintroduced as well. They are more affordable and not everyone has access to technology. Presently, in Texas, only the incarcerated can take the GED on paper. That version is simpler, notes the Chronicle article.
“It discriminates against the economically disadvantaged and the minorities who don’t have access to technology,” said Alan Dodd, a Fort Worth GED instructor. The Tribune added that low-income residents tend to lack regular access to computers and they are the most impacted by the switch to online administration.
The instructor continued, “My heart breaks for my students who come seeking hope and a better future and instead find a test 50 percent more expensive, and a computer-based technology they are not proficient.”
The GED program is the sole high school equivalency exam in Texas, although other states offer alternatives and are even phasing it out. Advocates want to see these other options folded into the mix.
Breitbart News reported that CTB/McGraw-Hill’s Test Assessing Secondary Completion (TASC) is used in nine states, and the Educational Testing Service (ETS) High School Equivalency Test (HiSET) is the preferred equivalency exam in 14 states. Five states–California, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Wyoming–offer all three exams to test-takers.
These tests are cheaper than the GED. The Houston Chronicle adds the alternatives can be taken on computer or in traditional pencil and paper format. HiSET allows two free retakes for those who fail, a savings of more than $200.
Fewer Texans take the GED and even fewer pass the new version. The Chronicle cited 2012-14 statistics from Austin-based advocacy group the Center for Public Policy Priorities, which showed a seven percent decline in the number of people who took the GED and a three percent drop in the pass rate.
The GED was created in 1942 to afford soldiers returning from World War II the opportunity to complete high school and attend college through the GI bill. It was administered by the nonprofit American Council on Education, whose board is now chaired by University of Houston President Renu Khator. In 2011, the council partnered with Pearson on the new GED, which was unveiled in January 2014.
A 2002 Southern Regional Education Board white paper on the GED points out that by 1959, most test-takers were civilians. The exam has been updated several times to reflect changes in curricular standards and in standardized assessments. Prior to 2014, the last update happened in 2002.
As always, the elephant in the room remains that the GED is aligned to the Common Core, which Breitbart News also previously highlighted. In fairness, so are college entrance exams, the SAT and the ACT. This should trouble Texans. Yet again, in a state that did not adopt Common Core, these aligned tests and instructional materials continue to crop up.
The Tribune said the state plans to start soliciting proposals from alternative testing vendors beginning in October. The board could consider GED alternatives as early as January 2016.
This article has been updated with additional information.
Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.