The GED is being redesigned “as a step in a journey toward postsecondary training, rather than as an end in itself,” reports Education Week. “The new exam, due out in 2014, will have two passing points: the traditional one connoting high school equivalency, and an additional, higher one signaling college and career readiness.”
Currently, the GED requires only one short essay. The new version probably will require two longer essays and four short ones in all subject areas. Expert panels will set cutoff scores at the high school equivalency and college readiness level.
“The message is that you’re not here just to get a high school equivalency and walk out. You’re here to get prepared for careers and educational opportunities that are going to demand that you have even more skill,” said Nicole M. Chestang, the executive vice president of the GED Testing Service.
Some 750,000 teens and adults — typically with a 10th-grade education — now take the GED exam, which covers reading, writing, math, science and social studies. However, GED holders don’t do as well as high school graduates in the workforce or in higher education.
Some say the test is too easy.
Officials in New York City, for instance, said last December that the passing score reflects only middle-school-level content and skills. The city is helping pilot a new, accelerated GED curriculum and accompanying supports in a subdistrict of alternative schools.
Others say people who pass the GED equal high school graduates in cognitive skills, but resemble dropouts in “soft skills,” such as persistence, motivation and ability to work with others.
While GED recipients are more likely to enroll in college than high school dropouts, few earn a certificate or degree.
A 2009 study (pdf) by the ACE followed 1,000 people who took the GED and found that only 307 had enrolled in postsecondary education five years later. Three-quarters dropped out after one semester, and only 17 completed a degree or certificate.
Since 2007, La Guardia Community College in New York has increased the college transition rate dramatically through its GED Bridge to College and Careers (pdf) program. While studying for the GED, students also learn college-level material to prepare for careers in business or health care. In addition, instructors also teach “college knowledge,” such as how to apply for financial aid.
Before the bridge program was created, only 35 percent of GED students enrolled in college classes. Last year, 80 percent of bridge graduates went on to certificate or degree programs.
“Making that connection with community college is an essential part of flipping the GED into an aspirational degree,” said Gail Mellow, the community college’s president.
A high school dropout and Navy veteran, my brother-in-law got into Cal Poly based on his very high GED score. He earned a degree in computer science. But that was a long time ago.