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February 21, 2013

Rising cost of GED test prompts state to consider other options

INDIANAPOLIS — Thousands of Hoosier adults who didn’t graduate from high school have turned to the GED to get the credential they need to go work or college, but the State of Indiana – like states across the nation – is rethinking its value.

The state is looking at alternatives to the General Education Development test, which has been the standard way to earn a high school equivalency diploma since 1942. State officials are looking at other tests that qualify people for equivalency credentials and measure college- and career-readiness.

Prompting the move is the rising cost of the test and the takeover of the national GED program by a new for-profit company that is redesigning the test to bring it into alignment with the Common Core State Standards driving other changes in education.

The new GED test to be rolled out in 2014 will be both more expensive to take and tougher to pass. State officials are hoping the combination will prompt more people thinking about earning a GED to act.

Last year, more than 15,000 Indiana residents took the GED test and 77 percent passed it. But there are many more who are eligible: More than 780,000 adults living in Indiana don’t have a high school degree or its equivalency. That’s about 1 in 6 adults.

Created during the early years of World War II as a way to help veterans finish their high school degree and get back into the civilian workforce, the GED test has been the only high school equivalency program recognized by every state.

The search for alternatives to the GED came last year, after the sole provider of the GED test, the non-profit American Council on Education, partnered with a for-profit company, Pearson PLC, which publishes education-test materials. With the partnership, came the agreement to revamp the GED to make it all computer-based and to bring it in line with the Common Core standards that have been adopted by 45 states, including Indiana.

The cost to take the GED test with pencil and paper is $70. The new computer-based test is $120.

Indiana, along with other a number of other states, is looking at alternatives to the GED test that may be less expensive for the test-taker but gets to the same goal: Identifying what the test-taker knows about standard subject areas including math, science, and social studies.

Any new test would likely also incorporate the Common Core standards, a set of academic guidelines that states have agreed on for what high school students should know by the time they graduate.

More information about the Indiana Adult Education program, and the assistance available to help adults earn their GED, is online at www.in.gov/dwd/adulted.htm.

Maureen Hayden covers the Indiana Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers in Indiana. She can be reached at maureen.hayden@indianamediagroup.com.

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