Niagara Gazette

Local News

February 24, 2013

New York considering alternative to GED exam for adults

Niagara Gazette — BUFFALO — Since World War II, virtually all adults who've sought a high school equivalency diploma have taken the GED. Next year, students may have a choice of tests as states explore developing rival exams in response to plans to re-write and computerize the GED and double the price.

New York state, citing a litany of issues with GED Testing Service's planned revamp, already has solicited bids for an alternative test that would maintain the paper and pencil format and keep costs more in line with the $60 it now pays in offering it to residents for free. Two bids submitted by the mid-January deadline are under review.

"We think we have no alternative. We cannot turn our back on the issue of access," Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said.

New York law prohibits charging residents to take the GED, so allowing the company's "monopoly" to continue would "simply double the cost and by that fact, halve the number of people in New York state who have access to this high school equivalency standard," she said.

New York is not alone in its reservations and is part of a 37-state coalition formed to consider potential alternatives, said Kevin Smith, the State Education Department deputy commissioner for adult career and continuing education.

Aside from the issue of cost, New York's 269 test centers don't have the terminals or technical infrastructure to give 50,000 tests via computer per year, state officials said. Even if it did, not every test-taker would have the computer drag-and-drop and typing know-how necessary for the 2014 GED, they said.

Yet another issue for New York is GED's rapid alignment with the more rigorous Common Core standards adopted by most states. Officials fear it will further diminish the chances of passing for adults who've learned under the previous standards. At 59.5 percent in 2011, New York's GED pass rate was the third-lowest in the country, behind only the District of Columbia and Mississippi. Nationwide, the pass rate was 72.2 percent.

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