Education Week - April 24, 2013 - (Page 7)

EDUCATION WEEK n APRIL 24, 2013 n 7 Some States Seek GED Alternative as Test Price Spikes The Associated Press Several dozen states are looking for an alternative to the ged highschool-equivalency test because of concerns that a new version coming out next year is more costly and will no longer be offered in a pencil-and-paper format. The responsibility for issuing high-school-equivalency certificates or diplomas rests with states, and they’ve relied on the General Education Development exam since soon after the test was created to help returning World War II veterans. But now 40 states and the District of Columbia are participating in a working group that’s considering what’s available besides the ged, and two test-makers are hawking new exams. “It’s a complete paradigm shift because the ged has been the monopoly. It’s been the only thing in town for high-school-equivalency testing. It’s kind of like Kleenex at this point,” said Amy Riker, the director of high-school-equivalency testing for the Educational Testing Service, which developed one of the alternative tests. Rule Changes Sought Last month, New York state, Montana, and New Hampshire announced they were switching to a new high-school-equivalency exam, and California officials began looking into amending regulations to drop the requirement that the state use only the ged test. Missouri has requested bids from test-makers and plans to make a decision this month. Several others states, including Indiana, Iowa, Maine, and Massachusetts, are looking into alternative exams, and New Jersey and Tennessee are exploring offering more than one test. “The national situation is definitely fluid,” said Tom Robbins, Missouri’s director of adult education and high school equivalency, noting that other states plan to use the ged for now and bid later. The pushback comes as the ged Testing Service prepares to introduce a new version of the exam in January. In the first revamp since for-profit Pearson Vue Testing acquired a joint-ownership interest in the nonprofit Washington-based ged Testing Service, the cost of the test is doubling to $120. That’s led to a case of sticker shock for testtakers, nonprofits, and states. Some states subsidize some or all of the expense of the exam, while others add an administrative fee. The new ged test will cost $140 to take in Missouri if the state sticks with it. Kirk Proctor, of the Missouri Career Center, said the organization is looking for a way to cover the increased test cost for students participating in a ged-preparation and job-training program he oversees. He said his students can’t come up with $140, noting they need help paying for the current, cheaper test. “A lot of them are just barely making it,” he said. “Transportation is a challenge. Eating is a challenge. For them, coming up with $140 for an assessment, it’s basically telling them, ‘Forget about ever getting this part of your life complete.’ ” One program participant, Nicole Williams, a 21-year-old Kansas City mother of three, said she was BLOGS of the WEEK | NEWS | On Special Education Feds Say State Testing Policy Not Discriminatory Mary Washer, a 17-year-old in Broken Arrow, Okla., is profoundly disabled. She has autism and encephalopathy, disorders that leave her functioning at the cognitive level of a toddler. Like other students with disabilities in the state, she is required to pass “end of instruction” tests on four out of seven core-content areas. But her mother, Angela Chada, contended that the state was discriminating against students like her by restricting the type of test accommodations her daughter could use. Those restrictions were keeping her daughter from earning a diploma, Chada said. However, the U.S. Department of Education’s office for civil rights disagreed, saying there was “insufficient evidence” to conclude that discrimination was occurring, according to an article published in the Tulsa World. The state decided color-coding could not be used as a testing accommodation for hopeful she’d pass the ged test soon so she could avoid the electronic version. With it, she said, “you’ve got to learn how to type, use the computer, plus your ged. That’s three things instead of just trying to focus all on your ged test.” Developers say the new version is needed because nearly all “ For [many GED students], coming up with $140 for an assessment, it’s basically telling them, ‘Forget about ever getting this part of your life complete.’” KIRK PROCTOR Missouri Career Center states are adopting tougher math and reading standards to ensure students are prepared for college and careers. Because the new version is so different, a million or so adults who have passed some but not all of the five parts of the current ged test must complete the missing sections by Dec. 31 or their scores will expire. “The ged was in dangerous position of no longer being a reflection the student, because the resulting test results were unreliable, the article said. “I wanted her to get a diploma because she’s been in school every day for 12 years, plus summer school,” Chada said in an interview with the paper. Teachers practiced with the student until she could place a Post-it note on the answer, then filmed her taking the test and sent it to the state to be scored. Despite the ocr decision, the story has a happy ending: Mary Washer eventually managed to pass the required tests to the satisfaction of state officials, and she will —CHRISTINA A. SAMUELS earn her diploma. | NEWS | of what high schools were graduating,” said Randy Trask, the president and ceo of the ged Testing Service, which previously was solely operated by the nonprofit American Council on Education. Online Format Benefits He said the computerized version, which students are passing at higher rates than the paper version in pilot sites, will be cheaper to administer because states will no longer have to pick up the tab for tasks like grading the exam. For test-takers who fail a section, the computerized version provides details about what skills they need to work on before retaking the exam. “I personally went into it a little bit naively,” said Mr. Trask of the new version. “I don’t know why I expected a marching band, but I did because I’m convinced that what we are doing is the right thing for the adults in this country.” Competitors have responded with a paper version and a cheaper base price, although the ged Testing Service said its price includes services the other two test-makers do not. The alternative exams’ makers also said they would work with states to find ways to combine scores from the ged with their new exams so students who have passed some sections of the current ged won’t be forced to start from scratch. The ged Testing Service said that would undermine the validity of a state’s equivalency credential or diploma. Mr. Trask also said he feared the competing exams would be confusing for colleges and employers. But states considering switching say they will put more emphasis light, act was serving as a subcontractor to the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or parcc, one of the federally funded state consortia. Parcc saw the project as sufficiently competitive with its own work as to pose a conflict of interest for act. Act withdrew from the parcc contract. Recently, Alabama announced that it was pulling out of both consortia—parcc and Smarter Balanced—and going with a different testing system for federal accountability. Alabama chose the actPearson suite of tests. Alabama is one of 44 states working with one or both of the two consortia. —CATHERINE GEWERTZ Curriculum Matters In Lieu of Common Tests, Alabama Opts for ACT Exam Alabama has become the first state to defect from common-assessment states in favor of a new comprehensive test system being designed by act. Iowa-based act made a point of announcing this month that Alabama has signed on to use its new assessment system. The announcement could resonate as two big groups of states push hard to craft new tests for the Common Core State Standards. When act’s partnership with Pearson on a “next generation” suite of tests came to | NEWS | Teaching Now Hybrid Teaching Jobs Attract Applicants Last summer, I wrote about a series of briefs released by Public Impact, an education policy and managementconsulting firm, that detailed some ways schools could potentially alter their staffing models to boost teachers’ pay without increasing existing school budgets. Now, through a contract with Project l.i.f.t., a public-private school improvement partnership, the Chapel on the equivalency credential or diploma they issue rather than the test taken to earn it. Art Ellison, who leads the bureau of adult education in New Hampshire, called the sudden choice in the exams “the new reality of adult education.” His state and Montana are switching to hiset, a $50 test that the Educational Testing Service is offering. Both states said cost influenced their decision. Montana Superintendent Denise Juneau said in a news release that residents “looking to improve their economic situation by obtaining a high-schoolequivalency diploma should not have to overcome a significant financial barrier in order to achieve that goal.” Skills Gap Mr. Ellison also noted that a paper option was important because many students in adult education classes lack the skills needed to take a computer-based test, and that it would take time to beef up the courses to add that training. Meanwhile, New York chose California-based ctb/McGraw-Hill’s new Test Assessing Secondary Completion. Developers said it will range in price from $50 to $60. Chancellor Merryl Tisch of the state board of regents said in a news release that without the change, New York would have had to pay the ged test-maker twice as much or limit the number of testtakers because state law bars residents from being charged to take the equivalency exam. “We can’t let price deny anyone the opportunity for success,” she said. Hill, N.C.-based organization is helping to bring some of those models to North Carolina’s Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools. As part of a pilot program called the Opportunity Culture Initiative, Project l.i.f.t. is creating a variety of new job roles for pre-K-8 teachers at four schools in the 141,000-student district based on the Public Impact model. Those roles are: • Multi-classroom leader 1: Leads one to four teachers, including specifying their teaching roles and working with them to improve their instruction. This leader is responsible for the progress of the teachers’ 50 to 400 students, and receives $16,109 on top of their salary. • Multi-classroom leader 2: Leads four or more teachers and oversees more than 400 students. The supplement is $23,002. • Blended learning teacher: Instructs multiple classes at once, using a mix of digital and face-to-face learning. The salary supplement is $9,205. • Expanded-impact teacher: Instructs multiple classes at once by rotating students with a paraprofessional. The supplement is also $9,205. • Specialized elementary teacher: Instructs only math/science or language arts/social studies. The bonus is $4,702. According to Public Impact, 708 teachers —LIANA HEITIN applied for 26 positions. >> To see all Education Week blogs, go to

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - April 24, 2013

Education Week - April 24, 2013
Union Sues Over Basis of Appraisal
In San Antonio, Pre-K Initiative Sets Steep Goals
New Teachers Search for Place in New Orleans
FOCUS ON: CAREER READINESS: States Seek High School Pathways Weaving Academic, Career Options
News in Brief
Report Roundup
PARCC Proposes Common-Core Test Accommodations
Some States Seek GED Alternative as Test Price Spikes
Blogs of the Week
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Online Socialization Is Hot Topic Among Researchers
Overhaul of the E-Rate Seen as a High Priority by FCC Commissioner
Comments Weighed on Vending Machine, ‘A La Carte’ Proposals
Corralling Local Support Still a Challenge
FOCUS ON: CAREER READINESS: Swiss Academic, Career Paths Designed to Cross
Obama’s Proposed Fix on Student Loans Ruffles Allies
Head Start Officials Tight-Lipped on Which Centers to Lose Aid
Policy Brief
Legislative Briefs
School Safety Legislation: A Tally by State
LAUREN BLAIR ARONSON: Advice to TFA From a Former Insider
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace

Education Week - April 24, 2013