News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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February 23, 2013

Rising cost of GED test prompts state to consider other options

INDIANAPOLIS — Thousands of Hoosier adults who didn’t graduate from high school have turned to the GED to get the credential they need to go to work or college, but the State of Indiana — as other states — is rethinking its value.

The state is looking at alternatives to the General Education Development test, which has been the standard way to earn a high school equivalency diploma since 1942. State officials are looking at other tests that qualify people for equivalency credentials and measure college- and career-readiness.

Prompting the move is the rising cost of the test and the takeover of the national GED program by a new for-profit company that is redesigning the test to bring it into alignment with the Common Core State Standards driving other changes in education.

The new GED test to be rolled out in 2014 will be both more expensive to take and tougher to pass. State officials are hoping the combination will prompt more people thinking about earning a GED to act.

“If you’ve been waiting for that moment of inspiration, let this be it,” said Jackie Dowd, deputy commissioner of policy, education and training at the state Department of Workforce Development.

The department oversees the GED testing program in Indiana, as part of the Indiana Adult Education program that helps adults earn the credentials needed to get into the workforce.  

Last year, of more than 15,000 Indiana residents who took the GED test, 77 percent passed. But many more are eligible: More than 780,000 adults living in Indiana don’t have a high school degree or its equivalency. That’s about one in six adults.

Created during the early years of World War II as a way to help veterans finish their high school degrees and get back into the civilian workforce, the GED test has been the only high school equivalency program recognized by every state.

But, Dowd said, “Those days are over.”  

The search for alternatives to the GED came last year, after the sole provider of the GED test, the nonprofit American Council on Education, partnered with a for-profit company, Pearson PLC, which publishes education test materials. With the partnership, came the agreement to revamp the GED to make it all computer-based and to bring it in line with the Common Core standards that have been adopted by 45 states, including Indiana.

The cost to take the GED test with pencil and paper is $70. The new computer-based test is $120.

Dowd said Indiana, along with other states, is looking at alternatives to the GED test that may be less expensive for the test-taker but gets to the same goal: Identifying what the test-taker knows about standard subject areas including math, science and social studies.

Any new test would likely also incorporate the Common Core standards, a set of academic guidelines that states have agreed on for what high school students should know by the time they graduate.

More information about the Indiana Adult Education program, and the assistance available to help adults earn their GED, is online at www.in.gov/dwd/adulted.htm.

Maureen Hayden covers the Indiana Statehouse for CNHI, the Tribune-Star’s parent company. She can be reached at maureen.hayden@indianamediagroup.com

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