An upcoming overhaul of the General Education Development test, or GED, is causing lots of debate locally and around the country due to major changes to the test, the way it is administered and who is overseeing it.
Starting Jan. 1, adults must take the high school equivalency tests on computers, instead of pencil and paper. The current five sections of the GED test, which include one language arts reading section and one language arts writing section, will be reduced to four (reasoning through language arts, mathematical reasoning, science and social studies).
The questions will be more complex, with short answers and essays intended to show greater understanding and critical analysis by test-takers in order to pass. Anyone who has not passed all five sections of the current test by the end of the year must start over in January.
Also, the GED Testing Service that oversees the tests is under new ownership, after a merger between the nonprofit American Council on Education that has always overseen it, with the for-profit Pearson learning company. The more stringent testing requirements, coupled with the new management structure, have placed additional burdens on adult education programs in California that are stressed from state budget negotiations.
In response to these concerns, the state Board of Education is considering changing its GED regulations to allow the California Department of Education to pursue an alternative high school equivalency test that could be taken using pencil and paper or computers. The board is accepting written comments through July 30 on an amendment that would change “a general educational development test” to “a test to obtain a high school equivalency certificate.” This change would clarify that the department would not be referencing the GED test.
Comments may be sent to the regulations coordinator via email: regcomments@cde.CA.gov, or by FAX to 916-319-0155. More information, including the mailing address, is available by calling 916-319-0800 or by visiting www.cde.ca.gov/be/ag/ag/yr13/agenda201307.asp. Click on Item 6 under the full board agenda public session for July 10, 2013.
The state board held a public hearing about the proposed changes in May and received 10 comments ranging from support to criticism.
Randy Trask, president of the GED Testing Service, objected to assertions made in a Feb. 20 memo from the state Department of Education to the board that said computer-based testing would decrease access, especially in rural and correctional settings, and that continued paper-based testing across the state was essential. Trask said the memo conspicuously omitted the benefits of the computer-based system or costs to test-takers.
In a phone interview, GED spokesman Armando Diaz said the computer change has many benefits.
“We’re not just providing a test,” he said. “We’re providing an entire system.”
It will include a pre-GED test as well as post-test information, including scores and suggestions for next steps, he said. Now, if someone doesn’t pass, they have no idea what they need to do to pass next time.
The new test will provide an in-depth score report, showing strengths and weaknesses, he said. Based on the passing score, the system may suggest additional coursework, he added.
“We want to bridge the gap between test-takers and middle skills jobs,” he said. “A lot of technology has been introduced to the manufacturing field, but a lot of adults are not familiar with technology, such as dragging a computer mouse around. I don’t think Target and Walmart even offer paper applications anymore.”
If the GED test did not move to computers, he said, test-takers could be at a disadvantage when they look for jobs.
More information about the new test is at www.gedtestingservice.com.
Do you think the state should pursue an alternative to the GED?