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New High School Equivalency Tests Make More Inroads

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The GED appears to have lost its foothold as the dominant high school equivalency test in Wyoming, one more sign that the high school testing market is undergoing profound shifts.

The Wyoming Tribune Eagle reports that only 49 people took the GED in Wyoming in 2015, while 1,993 took the High School Equivalency Test, or HiSET, a competitor introduced last year by the Educational Testing Service and Iowa Testing Programs. Like other states, Wyoming began offering the HiSET after getting approval from the U.S. Department of Education.

According to ETS, 19 states use the HiSET. (The list is here, but as of today, it hasn't been updated to include Colorado, Illinois and Pennsylvania.) Twelve states are using the Test Assessing Secondary Completion, or TASC, another new GED competitor, according to CTB/McGraw-Hill, which makes the test. In states offering either or both as an alternative to the GED, GED-testing volume has declined.

As we reported in 2013, the TASC and HiSET were making an entry into a marketplace dominated by one player: the General Educational Development test, or GED. Wyoming is testimony to the changes that are taking shape on the high school testing market. Fewer people have been taking the GED; testing volume has declined by about 50 percent. Fewer have been passing, too. GED pass rates had hovered around 70 percent, but had fallen to 60 percent a year ago.

The two tests yielded differing pass rates in Wyoming. The pass rate for those who took the GED in 2015 was 73 percent, but it was 89 percent for those who took the HiSET, according to the Tribune Eagle. Pass rates on the GED have been closer to 86 percent in the past decade, however, officials told the newspaper. Pearson reworked the GED in 2014, making it more rigorous, to reflect the Common Core State Standards.

The changes in high school testing aren't just on the equivalency side of the picture. As we've been reporting, statewide high school testing for accountability is changing, too. Some states are switching from the ACT to the SAT or vice versa. Others are substituting the SAT and ACT for their previous, standards-based tests for accountability, a move that raises serious questions.

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