Controversial GED Reform Raises the Stakes

For some students, completing high school isn’t an option for a variety of personal circumstances that may come up in life. The General Education Development test, or GED, has always been an option to move forward, but recent changes in the educational system have made this seem like more of a road block than a pathway.

Since the ‘40s, the GED has been run by American Council on Education, a nonprofit company. Pearson Vue Education, the largest education company in the world, entered a partnership with them in ‘12. They have since re-written the test and are now running the GED copyrighted test for profit as of Jan. this year. The new test has moved from paper and pencil to being all online. The price has gone up to $120 compared to the national average of around $70.

The new Pearson GED is the only test offered in all 50 states. The Office of Adult Literacy in Washington State decided to enter a contract with the Pearson GED, making it the only option for students who haven't completed high school. Faculty member Kristin Marra, GED and humanities professor attended the presentations as the Office of Adult Literacy would decide to sign a contract with one of the possible organizations.

“It’s a little bit of a scandal,” Marra says. Two other possible tests include the TASC (Testing Assessing Secondary Completion), and the HiSET (High School equivalency). According to Marra, many teachers seemed to be more interested in the HiSET test, but mostly they felt that there should have been more of a discussion before a decision was made.

While both parties gave their presentations, the representatives from Pearson “all lined up in their three-piece suits,” notes Marra, were allowed to be present. However, when Pearson was to show their test, the state officials had the other two organizations leave the room.

“That seemed a bit odd,” says Interim Dean of Humanities Kathy Hunt, who also attended the presentations. When the state signed the contract to use the Pearson’s version of the GED in Washington without consulting the teachers, there were suspicions about the relationship between Pearson and state officials.

“(The HiSet) seemed a bit more reasonable” Hunt says. “I think the people who make decisions have good intentions, but they don’t understand what it’s like to be in a classroom.” The GED is a “high stakes test,” meaning if they don’t pass, students aren’t capable of furthering their education and must repeat the process. Both the TASC and the HiSET offer two free retakes. The GED only offers two retakes at a discounted price.

The primary goal of the GED is to “make sure that students can compete in a college environment,” Marra says. The GED allows students to get the tools to move ahead and further their education. Pearson has now lobbied for the law to prevent students to receive financial aid until the GED is completed, while they used to be able to take classes and earn their high school equivalency.

Another major criticism of the new GED is the much higher standard, more specifically in the mathematics portion. The test now goes up through algebra II, which is much higher than the Math 90 required for some of the possible degrees or transfer agreements offered at the community college level.

“It seems a little backwards,” Hunt says. She explains that the Common Core standards are still a very new system in public schooling. High school and junior high teachers are only beginning to work together to meet these new curriculum standards.

While raising the standards for education across the board in the country is a good thing, changing the test to those standards now is unfair. At this point in the year, the GED program usually has about 50-60 people who have passed the exam. According to Marra, there have been only four this year.

This could have a major impact on the program here at SCC. With fewer people passing in one or two quarters like usual, there will be a bit of a snowball effect, as more students will be in the program for longer. “We absolutely need more staff,” Hunt says. She also says that funding for the GED program will change as well. The emphasis will be on a school's ability to transfer more students through the program.

Unfortunately, this new test is preventing many students from completing their high school equivalency, and discouraging many from even trying. Some teachers have even left, and there is a concern that SCC and other schools may have to drop the GED program entirely. But the faculty here has made it clear that there are still those that are willing to help these students through this rough patch.

“We’re trying to explore all kinds of ways to get students high school equivalency,” Hunt says. She mentioned that getting the math department involved in tutoring is something that is a current goal.

However, the staff here at SCC seems confident, and will continue to try to meet the new standards. “I’m going to stay here because I know my students can do this,” Marra says.


You really make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this
matter to be actually something that I think I would never understand.
It seems too complex and very broad for me. I'm looking forward for
your next post, I will try to get the hang of it!

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