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Georgia Is Making It Harder to Get a GED

I imagine few individuals have read about the substantive changes to the High School Equivalency Assessments (GED) for 2014 in Georgia. Georgia has selected the Pearson Testing Service to supply the GED at a cost of $160 for students. As a member of the Athens-Clarke County Literacy Council, a nonprofit organization, and an occasional tutor to local students striving to improve themselves, I am concerned that these changes will impede and set up artificial barriers rather than encourage and facilitate.

The cost and rules for the Pearson test are daunting factors for students, especially ones who struggle financially. This charge is more than double the cost of the other two competitors (TASC by CTB/McGraw-Hill and HiSET by ETS/Iowa Testing Programs). Pearson also charges the students for practice tests and retests, while their competitors allow for two complimentary retests. 

Moreover, the other two companies allow credit, with a state option, for students’ previous GED work and test scores. Unfortunately, Pearson does not. What does that mean for a student in a GED program? A GED teacher in Clarke County told me about one of her students who passed four of the five subtests of the GED test but missed passing the math subtest by five points. This student, unfortunately, must pay for and take the entire Pearson GED battery of tests even though she had demonstrated proficiency in four areas. We can only hope that she has the motivation and money to go through this challenging process in 2014.

The 2014 test that will be used in Georgia is far more difficult than the one administered from 2002–2013. In fact, some of the tasks on this redesigned test would challenge those high school students preparing for the SAT. In terms of reading, the passages have been doubled in length and are primarily expository rather than literary or narrative. The test takers will also be required to read two primary and secondary source documents and then, in a 25-minute time period, write an extended response essay on the computer. Does this sound like a task that a typical high school senior must complete in order to graduate? As pointed out in a recent article in the New York Times, it is a rare moment in life when an individual is asked to write on demand under time constraints about something they have never even heard of or pondered.

So, what can we do in Clarke County and in Georgia to support motivated young adults who wish to earn their high school equivalency degree? The most logical solution to this dilemma would be to initiate a discussion at the state level about why we have committed ourselves to a more expensive and unnecessarily difficult test when viable alternatives are possible, alternatives that other states have considered and adopted. Perhaps a concerned citizen or politician could adopt this cause and apply subtle pressure to those who make these decisions. Having a GED test that is reasonable in demands and not prohibitive in cost would certainly allow young adults to obtain better jobs and become constructive citizens of Georgia.