What’s going on with GED in 2014?

Is the GED the same as a high school diploma? No, but for people who have dropped out of high school, it’s often the next best thing. In 2012, 9,712 Minnesotans took the GED test and 5,562 passed, getting a credential that can open doors to jobs and college or vocational training. Next year, the test will get harder, and more expensive. What’s up with that?

The official word from the GED Testing Service is that, “The new assessment will continue to provide adults the opportunity to earn a high school credential, but it goes further by measuring career- and college-readiness skills that are the focus of today’s curriculum and tomorrow’s success.” That will mean two levels of passing the new test — one for a high school certificate and a higher certificate for college readiness.

According to a recent American RadioWorks documentary, the GED test was updated in 1978, 1988 and 2002. Each time, “there was a rise in the number of people who took the test before the update, and a drop the following year.”

This time around, anyone who has not successfully passed the test by the end of 2013 has to start all over. All results from the “old” 2002 version of the test will simply be erased on December 31. That’s why a record number of Minnesota GED students are expected to “graduate” in mid-January.

The new test will also cost more — $120 per test taker. Some of that fee may be subsidized by various state programs, so that individual students may not need to pay the entire amount.  Cost is at least part of the reason why some states, including Iowa and New York, are going with alternative tests from other companies.

The GED test is a joint venture between the non-profit American Council on Education (ACE) and the for-profit Pearson testing company, which calls itself “the world’s leading education company, providing educational materials, technologies, assessments and related services to teachers and students of all ages.” ACE has been running the GED Testing Service since its beginning in 1942, and entered into a partnership with the for-profit Pearson company in 2011.

The GED test has five areas (reading, social studies, science, writing and math), with multiple choice questions plus a short essay. The test has been around since 1942, when the program began as a way to give returning soldiers an opportunity to complete their high school study without returning to sit in a classroom with much-younger students.

Critics of the GED program say that the GED:

  • is not really equivalent to a high school diploma;
  • doesn’t help GED grads to get jobs; and
  • encourages teens to drop out of high school and take the GED test instead.

Supporters say that it can help the millions of adults who don’t have a high school diploma by giving them “the tools, resources and knowledge–through a high school equivalency program–to prepare them for college or a good job with good wages.”


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