Big Changes Raise Big Questions for the GED

by Andrea Roethke

In 2011, the GED came under new management. The American Council on Education (ACE), who had been operating the test as a non-profit program, formed a partnership with the testing service Pearson. Together they created the GED Testing Service, which will now operate the GED as a for-profit venture.

They’ve since announced a number of changes to the test, which have caused quite a stir in adult education and workforce circles. The changes that will roll out in 2014 include:

  • Two-tiered scoring, with a general high school equivalency and a post-secondary ready certification.
  • The elimination of the paper-and-pencil GED. All testing will be computer-based – a move that will make the test more intimidating and less accessible for adults who are more comfortable with the traditional format
  • A flat fee of $120 per tester. Currently Maryland GED test-takers pay just $45. The increased cost will impact test-takers’ bottom line, first and foremost. But the new fee structure could also impact the bottom line for testing centers. With the need for computers and only a small portion of the testing fee going back to each center, it is unclear whether low-volume centers will be able to stay open.

Across the country, stakeholders are questioning whether the new GED will remain accessible to those who need it most, and whether the states should develop alternatives to what some are now calling a for-profit monopoly. The Texas Education Agency is exploring the possibility of offering a state-run GED alternative. New York state officials are making a similar move, and exploring whether other companies might be able to offer an alternative, a move supported by local advocates.

In the meantime, states are grappling with the looming transition from the current test to the 2014 test. Students who have already begun or will soon start the testing process must pass all subjects before the new version is rolled out in 2014. If they don’t complete in time, they will have to start from square one.

A lot is at stake for Marylanders without a diploma – and the business that rely on an increasingly educated workforce. Jobs, education and even basic skill training are often out of reach for workers who lack a high school equivalency. Maryland should explore what is happening in other states and consider whether GED alternatives make sense, along with how to manage all the other challenges the transition brings. The time to act is now.

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