Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Opinion

May 22, 2014

More difficult

Fewer are passing revamped GED test

ASHLAND — In a state like Kentucky with the number of adults who have not graduated from high school is much higher than the national average, undereducated adults have been encouraged to earn high-school equivalency degrees by studying for, taking and passing the General Educational Development (GED) test.

This has slowly but surely reduced the number of adults who lack the education needed to attract high-paying jobs to the state. In some rural Kentucky counties, fewer that half the adults older than 25 have graduated from high school. That’s no way to attract employers who need skilled workers.

Since the days when former First Lady Martha Wilkinson, who died last week, formed Martha’s GED Army during the four years her late husband, Wallace Wilkinson, served as governor, Kentucky has been well above the national average in the number of adults earning their GEDs.

But that may soon be changing. Five months after the revamped GED exam was introduced, the number of people taking and passing the GED exam has dropped dramatically. For example, in the Lee County School District in southwest Florida, a record 4,878 adults took the GED test last year. In the first four months of this year, the number of adults taking the test had dropped to 440, and the county is on a pace to have a 75 percent drop in the number taking the demanding test in just one year.

Some have been anticipating the decline since the company that administers the GED exam announced two years ago that it would revise the exam, offer it only via computer and increase the cost of taking the test. That’s when two companies announced that they would develop their own tests to compete with the GED exam that has been the standard for 42 years.

Because they disagree with the changes in the GED exam, 10 states no longer offer the GED. Instead residents of those states can earn their high-school equivalency diplomas by passing either HiSet, the test developed by Educational Testing Service and the University of Iowa, or McGraw-Hill’s Test Assessing Secondary Completion (TASC) exam,. Those are the two tests developed as alternatives to the GED exam. The 10 states no longer offering the GED exam are West Virginia, Indiana, Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, Missouri, Iowa, Louisiana and Montana.

In addition, California, Nevada, New Jersey and Wyoming are letting students choose between the three tests, while students in Tennessee can choose between the GED and HiSet. Kentucky should consider following the lead of these states by giving adults more options on which tests they take to receive their high-school equivalency degree. With the revised GED now asking for students to demonstrate skills in calculus and advanced sciences that many of us never took in high school, many believe the number of Kentuckians passing the GED will drop dramatically, which is just the opposite of what this state needs to erase the problem of an undereducated adult workforce.

The GED has always been a demanding test, and many college professors will tell you that new students who have received their GED are often better prepared for college than high school graduates. In fact, studies have also shown that many new high school grads cannot pass the GED test.

A high school degree is just the first step toward learning the skills needed for success in life. If those with their GEDs are doing well in college, then why make the test more difficult? That does not accomplish anything except assuring that those who dropped out of high school will find it more and more difficult to earn their equivalency degree and begin college or vocational training.

Many high school dropouts were never successful students. Why make it even more difficult for there adults to erase the mistake of dropping out by earning their equivalency degrees later in life?

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