Report: Missouri Ready to Move on from the GED

The Moberly Monitor-Index reports that Missouri is officially looking for an alternative to the GED to serve as the state’s high school equivalency exam.

As many people reading this blog already know, the GED Testing Service, a relatively new for-profit joint venture between the American Council on Education (ACE) and the education publisher Pearson, are in the process of dramatically revamping the GED. The new GED, set to replace the current assessment in January of 2014, will actually include two parts: an updated high school equivalency assessment aligned with the common core, and a second part that will measure college and career readiness. The new GED will also no longer be a pencil-and-paper exam, but a computer-based test.

These changes have been highly controversial. States (New York in particular) have complained about the increased cost of the exam. Most states are expecting the base cost of the exam to rise significantly, which will likely compel them to increase the fee charged to each individual taking the test (the cost to an individual varies depending on how much the state subsidizes the cost). In my experience talking with teachers about adult education policy, the new GED is far and away the most frequently expressed policy concern among adult educators.

A few months ago, a report claimed that as many as 25 states are looking into the possibility of dropping the GED. I don’t have the resources to monitor this closely state-by-state, so I don’t know how many have gone so far as to actually seek proposals from vendors for alternatives. Until I read the Moberly Monitor-Index story this morning, New York was only other state I knew of that had gone forward with such a request.

What’s really interesting about the Monitor-Index story is that the reporter is clearly under the impression that the GED’s days as a “national standard” for high-school equivalency are numbered:

The exact changes that will occur are still unclear, but what is known is that the national standard GED will no longer be in place.

States will soon be able to choose vendors to develop and regulate the tests, which could cause difficulties for adults and young people pursuing the GED option over a high school diploma.

The challenge I see is that every state is going to choose their own vendor,” Maryville AEL Director Linda Stephens said. “That is different than it has ever been before. I can see problems developing with bordering states and people who relocate.

Each states education department will be able to set its own standards. The question remains whether credits and scores earned in Missouri will be honored elsewhere.

Stephens has been reviewing information on GED Testing Services sent to her by the state. But there are many vendors out there ready to enter the high school equivalency business. (my emphasis)

From what little I do know, I think it’s premature to state with certainly that a free-for-all is imminent for high-school equivalency tests around the country. But the scenario the reporter lays out here is certainly not far-fetched. Having different exams in different states probably will create confusion. It could be particularly challenging for someone studying for an exam in one state who then unexpectedly finds themselves in a situation where they need to move to a different state—maybe due to a job change, for example. And, as noted above, it’s also not clear whether every state will recognize the validity of every other state’s exam.

For better or worse, the GED, while not by any means the only path towards high school equivalency for adults and out-of-school youth, is our de facto national test. It’s hard to imagine how states dropping it and replacing it with multiple alternative exams won’t create confusion for adult learners and present new challenges to the already under-funded field of adult education. It’s also unclear if there is some point at which enough states drop the test that Pearson is no longer to justify it as a viable for-profit venture. What happens then?