Education Week - April 24, 2013 - (Page 7)
APRIL 24, 2013
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
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,
“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
| NEWS |
On Special Education
Feds Say State Testing Policy
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
with $140 for
ever getting this
part of your life
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.
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 |
Hybrid Teaching Jobs
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
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
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
applied for 26 positions.
To see all Education Week blogs,
go to edweek.org/go/blogs.
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
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
School Safety Legislation: A Tally by State
A NATION AT RISK: 30 YEARS LATER: Where Are We Now?
LAUREN BLAIR ARONSON: Advice to TFA From a Former Insider
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
CHRISTOPHER COLEMAN, KARL DEAN, JAMES MITCHELL JR., BETSY PRICE, & RONNIE STEINE: Embracing After-School Learning
Education Week - April 24, 2013