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News Paths to High School Equivalency Credential Create Fluid Market

Just how someone gets a high school equivalency diploma has always varied by state. Adult education services are run differently in every state, with different prep courses offered, different rates charged, and now even different tests given.

The rollout of the new GED (General Educational Development) test this month prompted CTB/McGraw Hill and the Educational Testing Service to enter the market with their own tests—making for a patchwork of assessment options. The changes raise many questions and bring a sense of uncertainty into the market, as states will likely review the alternatives again next year.

I examine the changed landscape in a new Education Week story, Revised GED Ushers in New Era with More Options.)

This year, most students will need to be comfortable using a computer to take a high school equivalency test and be ready for tougher questions, as the new tests are designed to align with the Common Core State Standards. Will that mean a new surge in keyboarding classes? A transformation in the way adult basic education classes are taught? How long will it take students to ramp up their knowledge to be able to pass?

Kentucky is one of 40 states and the District of Columbia offering the redesigned GED exclusively to its residents on computer for $120. With the immediate and detailed feedback on their performance, will students be more inclined to try again—especially since there are discounts for retakes?

New York is among the states offering the new Test Assessing Secondary Completion (TASC) just introduced this month by CTB/McGraw Hill. The state absorbs the $52 fee, so students can take it for free. How many will opt to take the test on computer versus paper and pencil? How might that affect performance?

Nevada residents have a choice of three testing options: the new GED for $120, TASC for $52, and ETS' new High School Equivalency Test (HiSET) for $50. How will students decide which exam to take? The state is trying to get the word out, but since all versions are not up an running yet in every location, it may be a matter of what's offered at a specific location.

There was a scramble late last year among students eager to get their testing in before the old GED retired, creating a likely gap in activity in the coming weeks.

For now, state officials are waiting to see how the new tests are received, and say they will watch closely how things are working in other states. The uncertainty is not likely to subside anytime soon in this fluid marketplace.

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