No One Could Have Predicted…

More discouraging news, this time from WRVO in New York:

New York replaced the GED because the test’s price tag was set to double this year. The new test gives students the same credentials – the equivalent of a high school diploma. Statewide pass rates are down by four percent after the switch, compared to 2012. The number of test-takers also fell by half.

First of all, that is a classic example of a buried lead, in paragraph form. I view a 4% pass rate drop as actually pretty good news, considering that they’ve switched to a completely different exam. The real news is that the number of test-takers has fallen by half. That is not an “also”—that is the story.

And to what do we attribute this dramatic decrease in the number of test-takers? In states that stuck with the GED, the drop off is attributed by critics to the higher cost and difficulty of the revised GED. In New York, they have a different problem:

Bruce Carmel, director at the Bronx Youth Center and a co-chair at the New York City Coalition for Adult Literacy, says there was a lot of misinformation about the new test.“You heard some people saying, ‘Oh, there’s no more GED,” he says. “So when people heard there was no more GED test, a lot of people thought it was over and you couldn’t get your high school equivalency diploma anymore.”

Sometimes it seems like if we had tried to come up with a plan to intentionally discourage adults from earning their high school equivalency we could not have done a better job. I know this is not in fact what anyone intended (including the test publishers), and I don’t want to the discount the heroic work that the adult education community has done to transition to these new exams. We’d be in even worse shape without their efforts. (And I wish the media would pay as much attention to that as they do to the poor numbers.) Nor is this a criticism of the decision in New York to replace the GED. But the dramatic drop we are experiencing around the country in the number of people seeking a high school equivalency diploma as a result of these changes should not have been unexpected. Some honest, no-finger-pointing reflection on how we ended up in such a situation might help us take steps to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. And while eventually this all may eventually shake out for the better, let’s not forget about the folks who gave up on high school equivalency during this transition, and what the future likely holds for them.

2 thoughts on “No One Could Have Predicted…

  1. I am preaching “volume” to anyone who will listen. The story is the drop in volume… not necessarily the test or the pass rate. If we get the volume back up, we could see a different picture.

  2. Oh yes… Some of us AdultEd pros predicted it here in California. Just the other day I asked one of my colleagues how full their GED testing center had been. After all the hype and the “required” dedicated lab space and lab time, the testing centers are not seeing people coming in in droves. While I agree we needed a more applicable exam, the roll out wasn’t the best. Making a large for-profit company the gatekeeper was too risky.

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