On January 2, 2014, the GED test shifted to a new version fully aligned with Common Core national K-12 benchmarks. The high school equivalency test now costs nearly twice as much and will be offered only on computers.
“This is not about Common Core—this is about jobs and how to be successful in a job and in life,” said C. T. Turner, director of public affairs for GED Testing Services. “The GED tests high school equivalence, but also career pathways. In most states, 50 percent of all available jobs are ‘middle-skill’ jobs—jobs that require some college but not a B.A. We are aligning the GED with the Common Core in order to fulfill the need for those jobs necessary to compete in a global economy. “
The new test costs approximately $120 per student, which has a dozen states looking for alternatives, as taxpayers often subsidize the test. New York, Montana, and New Hampshire chose to switch from GED to another high school equivalency test in 2013. Eight more states are considering a similar decision, according to the Associated Press (AP).
“Montanans who are looking to improve their economic situation by obtaining a high school equivalency diploma should not have to overcome a significant financial barrier in order to achieve that goal,” said Montana State Superintendent Denise Juneau.
In 2011, the latest statistics available, 690,774 Americans took the GED. The largest percentage of test takers were 19-24 year olds, at 36.7 percent, followed by 16-18 year olds, at 23.4 percent. Though most respondents did not identify their reasons for taking the GED, of those that did, the top three categories involved obtaining admission to a two-year college (31 percent), technical or trade school (24.6 percent), or four-year college (21.5 percent).
‘A Lot of Uncertainty’
The new test is expected to be more difficult for students to pass, and broad unfamiliarity with it among test preparers had Lee Weiss, director of GED Programs for Kaplan Test Prep, recommending those who could take the GED before it changes should do so.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty … in January 2014,” he said. Among the shifts for students already on the academic edge include a new scoring scale and moving from five subject areas to four.
“The content will be more difficult, and most GED takers are unlikely to have had experience taking computer-based tests,” Weiss said.
Fitting Common Core
The new GED uses the College and Career Ready Standards for Adult Education, from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Vocational and Adult Education. Writer Susan Pimentel, who also was one of five lead writers for Common Core national K-12 standards, acknowledges the assistance of a wide variety of “stakeholders” in preparing the document, including three of the other Common Core lead writers.
According to the Standards document, the Common Core State Standards were, “selected as the basis for the review and recommendations in this report.” It notes report “panelists did not have the autonomy to add content to the CCSS.”
Defining High School
GED switched to fit Common Core because the latter now defines high school-level education for most students in the country, GED’s president told the AP.
Change the Equation, an organization launched by President Obama, released a report stating GED is not the only high-school completion marker out of joint with Common Core. “Out of Sync” concludes that of the 45 states which have adopted Common Core, just 11 have graduation requirements that match expectations of the new standards, and 13 are partially aligned.
“This was a down and dirty study by Change the Equation,” said Sandra Stotsky, professor emerita at University of Arkansas and former overseer of graduation standards for Massachusetts. “It didn’t look at course descriptions, just the labels given to math courses.” A course title may say Algebra 2, for example, but not include all the standard Algebra 2 content.
“The Common Core standards are not content-based, and aligning curricula to the standards can actually dumb down graduation requirements,” Stotsky said.
She recommends colleges and universities advise states what classes and skills students most need for freshman year in college.
Image by Michael Surran.