Some of you may recall the news that there is a new GED (General Educational Development) test in town.
The GED Testing Service, a non-profit, administered the old GED and decided what content was included. The GED was well known as a decent replacement for a high school diploma for any student who dropped out of high school before graduating. Students could go to school, catch up on their education, study and most could successfully pass the GED. This would help them find jobs, better jobs, get into college, and generally move their lives forward.
But then, in 2014 the GED was privatized and is now owned by Pearson, a publicly traded company. They redesigned the GED to coincide with the new Common Core Curriculum currently governing the public K-12 curriculum. Suddenly, the GED became much more intense and hard to pass. Imagine dropping out of school 5 years ago and going back, only to realize that you must master the exact same curriculum that is causing your kids all the trouble? Basically, you’ll have to relearn from scratch much of what you spent 10, 11 or 12 years in school trying to figure out.
Recent data shows that the pass rate has dropped by over 80%. Some are saying that the GED exam is just too hard. What is it trying to measure? Is the GED a replacement for a high school diploma so the student can get into college? Or just a way to document that the student is educated sufficiently to keep and retain a job? Most students who are taking the GED are not trying to get into Harvard. Instead, they need this certificate to get a job or keep one. Do we really need an exam that shows college readiness or just proof of a basic level of education and capability?
Problems arising from the new GED have created an opening for two other companies. There are now two alternative versions of “GED” exams: the HiSET and TASC. Both of these exams are approved by the Federal Department of Education as a legitimate “High School Equivalency”. And the companies behind these two exams have made huge inroads with states in establishing a solid alternative to the GED exam from Pearson. The most significant issue, however, that I see the two companies facing is changing the public’s perception of the GED.
Everyone calls it the “GED”, yet in reality, it is now a “high school equivalency”. But if the new Pearson GED continues to show huge failure rates, and the HiSET or TASC shows better pass rates, I think the public will come around very quickly and accept the new alternative tests. And hopefully, employers and other agencies follow suit.