JOTF works toward smooth transition for 2014 GED

by Andrea Roethke

In just a few months the current General Educational Development tests will expire and be replaced with a new exam. The 2014 GED test will be aligned with the Common Core standards that are now required in K-12 school systems across the country, and many in the field expect that the tests will become more rigorous. The test, which has traditionally been offered via paper and pencil, will also shift to being offered only by computer.

Since we first blogged about the issue last year, a lot of progress has been made toward answering key questions about the changes and plotting the course for providers working in the field. First, after the GED Testing Service announced that they would be raising the cost of the test to $120, many feared that low-income students would be priced out. To address the issue, the Maryland General Assembly approved funding to subsidize the cost for Maryland test-takers at the current rate of $45. As long as the subsidy remains in place, it will go a long way toward preserving accessibility of the GED test.

In the last few months JOTF has worked closely with the Department of Labor, Licensing & Regulation and the Maryland Association of Adult Community and Continuing Education to prepare program operators and educators for a smooth transition to the new test. Last week we launched a webinar series to provide answers to critical test-related questions. The first webinar covered topics including registration deadlines for the current version of the test, the implementation of computer-based testing, and strategies for raising awareness among test-takers. Answers to frequently asked questions are available here, and a recording of the webinar is available by contacting Andrea Roethke.

As of now, managing the transition is the state’s top priority, but questions still remain about the long-term picture for high school equivalency. Some states have already decided to drop the GED test in favor of alterative tests. New York will be using the Test Assessing Secondary Completion (TASC) developed by CTB/McGraw-Hill; New Hampshire, Montana and Tennessee will be using the ETS High School Equivalency Test (HiSET). Other states are considering following suit, and here in Maryland, legislation passed during the 2013 legislative session requiring DLLR to study the viability of alternatives. The agency’s report is due later this year.

While providers are starting to get answers to their most immediate questions about the GED transition, these larger questions still loom. It is likely that high school equivalency will remain a hot topic in the fields of workforce development and adult education as we begin to see how students fare on the new tests. Amid all the challenges and the politics, it can be easy to lose sight of the central goal – educating students and preparing them to succeed in the workforce. As we evaluate success in the coming year, that should be our core measure.

Andrea Roethke is JOTF’s senior policy analyst.

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