Cost-saving options offered for GED exam
(Calif.) Two years after a sharp increase in fees jeopardized student access to the state’s high school equivalency exam, California officials announced this month an agreement with CTB/McGraw-Hill to offer the firm’s general education test.
The tentative accord brings to three the number of vendors in California that have or soon will offer the general educational development test, or GED.
Like many other states, officials in California were forced in 2013 to find alternative vendors after the American Council on Education assigned its testing services to a new firm operated in partnership with Pearson PLC – the London-based publishing and education giant.
The American Council on Education had owned the general education assessment in California since 1974. But the new firm, GED Testing Service, placed conditions on states wishing to continue with its testing programs, including requirements that all testing centers use specific computer systems and that all exams be administered electronically.
The new requirements, estimated to increase the cost of an individual test by $120, prompted state schools chief Tom Torlakson to seek out other options.
In a report to the California State Board of Education released this week, Torlakson notes that negotiations have brought three vendors to the state:
- Educational Testing Service agreed last July to begin offering its High School Equivalency Test (HiSET®). The exam currently is being offered at 67 primary test centers and 86 addendum test sites in computer- and paper-based formats. The HiSET® fee for the full battery is $50, and individual subtests are $15. Last year the assessment was taken by 2,572 individuals with a national pass rate of 68 percent and a state pass rate of 43 percent.
- GED Testing agreed in March, 2014 to offer its computer-based test at 198 primary and addendum test center sites across the state. The cost for the full battery of the GED® is $140. The GED® was administered to 19,872 test takers in 2014 with a national pass rate of 61 percent and a state pass rate of 58 percent.
- CTB/McGraw-Hill completed negotiations with the California Department of Education in February and has not yet entered into a contract with any test centers in California to date. The cost for the full battery of the TASC™ is $52.
The general education test is taken annually by about 50,000 California students attending an alternative education program or who left school without graduating and wish to attain a certificate with some equivalency to a diploma. Also, anyone may take the exam to indicate school completion within three months of his or her 18th birthday.
The test is typically used by adult learners, especially those in the criminal justice system.
Under California law, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction is required to issue a high school equivalency certificate to qualified students who pass the general educational test. The equivalency certificate is recognized under state law as a high school diploma for the purposes of meeting the requirements of employment by all state and local public agencies in California.
According to the memo from the CDE, 20 states have chosen to either replace or add assessments to the GED® test as options for students to earn their state-issued high school equivalency certificate.