News & Media

Local Editor Speaks About New GED Test and Impact on Students

01/28/2015 Lancaster Online By LNP Editorial Board

The Issue
 
Developers of the GED — the general educational development test — have aligned it with Common Core standards. The new version of the GED, which came out in January 2014, is much more difficult than in the past. Statistics for 2014 show an unprecedented drop in the number of people passing the test. In Pennsylvania, nearly 22,700 people completed the GED examination in 2013, and 17,654 of them passed. In 2014, according to unofficial preliminary figures from the Department of Education, just 3,644 people completed it, and 2,194 passed. That’s a nearly 90 percent decline.
 
The GED long has been a passport to a better future. It’s never been easy. But it’s now become, for some, an insurmountable obstacle, and for many others, a challenge so daunting they’re not even taking it on.
 
This shouldn't be. It isn't good for individuals. It isn't good for Pennsylvania. And it isn't good for our country.
 
Tim Shenk, adult education director at Lancaster-Lebanon Intermediate Unit 13, said it best when he told LNP: "It is barring people from earning a living wage and gaining employment."
 
The GED was created by the nonprofit American Council on Education in 1942 to allow World War II veterans to get the equivalent of a high school diploma.
 
It's now a joint venture of that organization and Pearson, a for-profit education services company.
 
Over the years, LNP has told the stories of many who obtained GED diplomas on their way to building productive lives.
 
There was the woman who got her GED diploma and then became a licensed practical nurse and eventually director of nursing at an outpatient addiction treatment center; last year, she earned a master's degree in human services from Lincoln University.
 
There was the Vietnamese immigrant who got her GED diploma, earned two associate degrees from HACC, worked full time at Fulton Bank, and then went on to earn a bachelor's degree in business administration from Elizabethtown College.
 
Judges sometimes add a GED requirement to a criminal's sentence for a reason — a high school equivalency diploma represents opportunity and redemption.
 
The GED Testing Service website says "only 12 percent of GED grads gained additional education credentials in the past, and that low number is a reason for building the new comprehensive program."
 
But as LNP reported earlier this week, just getting a GED diploma can improve a person's earning potential.
 
Without it or a high school diploma, a person's maximum hourly wage likely will be capped at about $10.
 
GED Testing Service's own research shows that a person can raise his earning potential by about $115 a week just by getting his GED diploma.
 
So why throw up roadblocks?
 
In addition to the test's increased rigor, it now must be taken on a computer at an official testing center. Test-takers generally have to pay by credit card, something not everyone has.
 
An education reporter named Matt Collette, who has a master's degree from an Ivy League college, took a test akin to the new GED.
 
"I spent nearly seven hours taking the test, wracking my brain," Collette wrote in The Daily Beast. "When it was all over, I felt exhausted and dumb. ... I definitely didn't pass the language arts test, and I do 'language arts' for a living. I have a master's degree in one of them."
 
Collette notes that some states have dropped the GED as their high school equivalency test of choice, and have opted for alternatives.
 
The Pennsylvania Department of Education should do the same if changes aren't made soon. (That department’s own preliminary data on GED test-takers in 2014 is undoubtedly as alarming to state education officials as it is to us. )
 
In the meantime, those who wish to take the GED should avail themselves of the free GED classes offered by the IU13 and The Literacy Council of Lancaster-Lebanon.
 
Shenk, of IU13, says adult education agencies could use additional state and federal funding to cover “the significantly increased costs of GED instruction.”
 
Question: Know who or what is not being burdened by the new GED?
 
A.) Pearson, the GED Testing Service partner that not only benefits from the new Common Core-aligned GED, but last year won a contract to develop and implement Common Core-aligned assessments for a consortium of states.
 
B.) GED diploma-seekers.
 
This is, at least, one question that's easy to answer.
 
To get help preparing for the GED:
adulteducation.iu13.org
getliterate.org
 

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