Diplomas Count - Issue 34, 2013 - (Page 8)

EDUCATION WEEK JUNE 6, 2013 Diplomas Count > www.edweek.org/go/dc13 n 8 | High School Equivalency Test Gets a Makeover New computerized GED exams to be more rigorous—and costly Why New Assessments? “It was definitely time for [the ged assessment] to be revamped. It would lose its relevance and authority if it wasn’t,” says Barry E. Shaffer, an adult education consultant and a retired director of adult education in Faribault, Minn. A driving force behind the new assessment has been a need to prepare students better for life beyond high school and the demands of today’s workforce. Research by the American Council on Education, which has run the ged program for about 70 years, found that although 65 percent of ged test-takers plan to go on to some form of postsecondary education, only 35 percent enroll within seven years, and just 12 percent earn any higher education credential. Since 1942, the ged tests have been updated three other times—in 1978, 1988, and 2002. “The ged test has always been a reflection of what is happening in high schools,” says Randy Trask, the president of the ged Testing Service, which has offices in Washington and Bloomington, Minn. “Our high schools are all going through a radical transformation to college- and career-readiness standards,” he says. The new ged exams will show if students have the skills to get through the first year of college without taking a remedial course. Nationally, one in seven high school credentials are ged certificates. In 2011, about 723,000 students (average age 26) took the tests, a number that has remained relatively flat for the last decade. Although the growing popularity of credit recovery and new alternative competency-based credential systems may account for some of that lack of growth, most experts and ged proponents acknowledge there will always be a need for the ged exams or some similar high school equivalency assessment. Nearly 16 percent of American adults do not have a high school diploma, according to federal education officials. More jobs are requiring higher levels of education, and ged Testing Service officials say they are only scratching the surface of potential test-takers. The new ged assessment will cover four subject areas: literacy, mathematics, science, and social studies. Its more-rigorous content will be aligned with the new Common Core State Standards, which ask students to do more analysis and deeper-level thinking. When details emerged last fall about the revised ged tests, though, some adult education leaders worried about states’ ability to cover the cost and acquire the new technology, and whether students could adapt to the computer model and tougher content. “Our initial reaction was ‘a little too far, too fast, folks,’ ” says Kevin G. Smith, the deputy commissioner for adult career and continuing education in New York state. “It’s not a simple matter of aligning the test and putting out a new test instrument that is computer-based.” Students and instructors need time to gear up, he says: “It doesn’t happen overnight and it doesn’t happen without cost.” New York and other states began to look for alternatives through a working group of 41 members from the National Council of State Adult Education Directors, a Washingon-based professional association. Ctb/McGraw-Hill, the New York City-based educational publisher, was the first to jump into the market, developing its own Test Assessing Secondary Completion, which New York has committed to using. Meanwhile, the Princeton, N.J.-based Educational Testing Service and Iowa Testing Programs have joined forces to launch the High School Equivalency Test, or Hi set. Montana and New Hampshire have adopted the ets version of the test, and other states, such as Tennessee, are considering offering both the Hiset and the ged. Converting to a new system at a time when education dollars are tight is a challenge for many. “Nationally, it’s just a mess,” says Shaffer, the Minnesota consultant. “But it can be resolved at the state level with a good bit of collaboration, discussion, [and] policymaking.” Hard to Compare To use other test vendors, some states, such as Washington and Tennessee, are in the midst of rewriting laws to wipe out references to the brand ged. But the ged Testing Service reports that at least 20 states have publicly indicated they will continue to use its new tests. “I think this is all smoke now,” says Trask of the ged Testing Service. “No one has anything to compare, only promises of what they are going to have.” The ged Testing Service maintains that its new assessment is the only one that will align completely with the common core, and Trask says it’s “almost offensive” to assume students can’t adapt to computers or acknowledge that today’s job market requires those higher-level skills. Last year, the ged Testing Service piloted the computer testing with 40,000 students of all ages, socioeconomic classes, and computer-skill levels. Results were encouraging. According to the testing company, the passing rate on computers was 88 percent, compared with 71 percent for the paper test. The exam went more quickly, too, with students finishing in 5½ hours versus 8. Also, adults who took the test via computer were 59 percent more likely to retake a failed test instead of giving up and dropping out of the testing program. Under the organization’s new model, $40 of the $120 fee charged to students will be returned to the testing centers to cover the cost of giving the exams. That makes its fee competitive with the $50 Hiset or the $54 Test Assessing Secondary Completion, Trask says. Other Players Already a developer of adult basic education tests, ctb/McGraw-Hill was well positioned to provide an alternative to the ged tests, says Richard Patz, the vice president of research and engineering for the company. “We know how By Caralee Adams F or many dropouts, especially those who are too old to return to the public K-12 system, the ged assessment has long been the main route to the high school credential that eluded them. But, come January, getting a General Educational Development credential won’t be the same. Gone will be the paper-and-pencil tests. Students instead will take the exams on a computer and know the same day if they passed. Content will be more rigorous to align with new common academic standards for most high schools, and test-takers will receive a separate college- and career-readiness score. Along with the big changes, comes a bigger price tag: $120. That’s about double what it was before the American Council on Education partnered with the for-profit publisher Pearson to form the new ged Testing Service. Just how much students pay—and whether they can take the ged tests at all—will depend on where they live. Concerns over cost and access to the revised exams have prompted ctb/McGraw-Hill and the Educational Testing Service to enter the market at the same time with their own high school equivalency tests, leading some states to drop the ged exams altogether or offer students a choice. Other states are expanding alternative paths to getting a diploma with competencybased programs. All those changes exacerbate students’ confusion over a patchwork of policies and options for students without a high school diploma. The situation varies across the country because adult education services, which also cover teenage dropouts young enough to be in school, are operated and financed differently in each state. States set their own fees for testing. Some subsidize the cost of the tests, while others charge an administrative fee or have students foot the bill. The testing situation will likely become more fluid as administrators sort through the details and consider how to prepare students for the change. One outcome is sure: The uncertainty is expected to translate into a surge of ged test-taking this year, before the landscape changes significantly in 2014. http://www.edweek.org/go/dc13

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Diplomas Count - Issue 34, 2013

Diplomas Count - Issue 34, 2013
Contents
A ‘Neglected’ Population Goes Back to School
Age Can Determine Access To Free Education, Diploma Pathways
State Statistics and Strategies
High School Equivalency Test Gets a Makeover
Reasons to Stay: Tailored Interventions
Online Providers Find a Market In Returning Dropouts
Second-Chance Challenge: Keeping Students in School
A Chicago Charter Network Stanches The Flow of Dropouts
Sound-Engineering Class Hooks Reluctant Student
Teenage Father Makes Journey From Dropout to Top Student
Honor Student Disconnects, Re-engages at CCA
Graduation Rate Approaching Milestone
TABLE: Graduation in the United States
DATA: Detailed Analytic Portrait
TABLE: Graduation Policies For the Class of 2013
Sources and Notes

Diplomas Count - Issue 34, 2013

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