Report: Changes to GED test could create obstacles for low-income, low-skilled adults

Report: Changes to GED test could create obstacles for low-income, low-skilled adults

- in Must Reads


On January 1, 2014, significant changes to the General Education Development (GED) test will take effect, potentially creating significant obstacles for low-income and low-skilled adults, according to a new report from the North Carolina Justice Center.

After 70 years of being administered by the non-profit American Council on Education, the GED will become a project of a public-private partnership with Pearson VUE, the largest existing testing company. Along with the shift in the delivery, the changes being implemented on January 1st could affect access to credentials for North Carolinians without a high school degree. According to the report, under the new system:

  • Costs will increase. The paper-based GED is set at $35 per student for the full five required tests or $24 per test under the new transitional computer-based testing option. The testing fee for the new 2014 test is $120 for the entire battery of tests – only four tests as compared to the five tests now offered – which equates to $30 per test.
  • All tests will be computerized. North Carolina currently offers pencil and paper tests. Excepting test takers who need accommodations due to a disability, the new GED will only be available by computer. There may be significant challenges in ensuring that test takers who lack access to and proficiency with computers are able to succeed at a computerized version of the test.
  • The new GED content and two-tiered credential could cause short and long-term obstacles. Beginning January 2014, the current five subject-matter test format will be revised to align with the Common Core standards being used in North Carolina public schools. The new four test format is expected to be more challenging.
  • Test scores on the current test series will expire in 2014. Any students who have not received their GED by December 31, 2013, must begin the process under the new 2014 test series, regardless of how many of the five tests within the current GED series they have completed.

These upcoming changes to the GED have important implications for all test takers, especially for low-income, low-skilled adults, the report said. The fee structure, the computerization of the test, and the new format all pose potential challenges for working-age, low-income North Carolinians seeking a high school credential.

More than 800,000 working-age adults in North Carolina lack a high school credential, with the percentage of those without a credential higher for African American and Hispanic adults, the report said. Working-age adults without high school degrees or GEDs are often stuck in low-wage jobs without opportunity for advancement.

While these challenges to low-income, low-skilled adults are significant, the changes to the GED test also offer an opportunity for states to reflect on ways to better meet the needs of this target population, the report said.

“The goal of adult education should be to ensure that all students are equipped with the basic skills they need to access higher levels of education that will lead to good, quality jobs,” said Sabine Schoenbach, a policy analyst with the NC Justice Center’s Workers’ Rights Project. “The GED represents an important bridge to further skills training and education. Adequate funding for basic skills trainings is therefore necessary, and the connection of basic skills to credential attainment in ways that engage low-income working adults is key to strengthening a path to self-sufficiency.”

Read the full report at this link.