GED changing pass score to better measure student performance



About 1,900 Georgians who failed the GED exam could retroactively receive their diplomas in a couple of months because the score required to pass the test will soon be lowered.

The drop — from 150 to 145 to pass, expected to start in March — is being made because studies showed GED students in some states were performing better in college than high school graduates, according to the national company that administers the high school equivalency test. For example, some students earning GEDs need less remediation after enrolling in college, the test administrators say.

The GED Testing Service is not changing any of the material in the test itself, just lowering the score it takes to pass. Company officials say the requirements for GED test takers and high school students should be the same, but right now GED test takers are working to a higher level to earn their passing score.

“If high school performance starts to improve, we can adjust our cut scores as well, but we want to make sure we are holding adults to the same standards” as those required for traditional high school students, said Randy Trask, GED Testing Service’s president.

The final timetable for the scoring changes was still being worked out this week.

The scoring change comes two years after the national testing company rolled out a more rigorous exam, aligned to national standards such as Common Core, that led to fewer people taking the test and fewer passing it. In Georgia, 60 percent of test takers passed the old test. That dropped to 54 percent in 2014 with the tougher one.

The issue came up this week when a state lawmaker asked technical college system director Gretchen Corbin how Georgia was rebounding from the decline in passing rates. Corbin hinted at the new GED scoring changes, noting there would be efforts to bring the GED requirements in line with high school requirements.

The testing company says the scoring changes are not a way to boost the numbers of those who pass.

“We want to have our test actually anchored to actual performance … The new 2014 test did reflect the higher college and career readiness standards, but it’s important that we don’t get ahead of the curve,” Trask said.

Along with the lower passing score, GED Testing Service will add to the GED credential two new performance levels above basic high school equivalency to signify college readiness; and the highest-scoring test-takers will get an opportunity to earn college credits.

The national company will recommend that more than 25,000 people in the U.S. who scored between 145 and 149 on the test since 2014 be eligible to receive their state’s GED credential. Almost 100,000 would earn a passing score on at least one GED subject area.

States will have to work out the details with their state leaders, as well as negotiate with their higher education systems about college credits.

The impact of the changes would likely be far reaching here as Georgia looks to educate 1.2 million people without a high school diploma or GED, and boost the number of its college degree or certificate holders by more than 250,000 over the next decade.

“We had a feeling that if (GED Testing Service) took a look and really did the work on the studies, they would find that the (GED) cut score should have been set a little lower,” said Beverly Smith, the assistant commissioner for adult education in the Technical College System of Georgia, which administers the state’s GED program.

Georgia, Smith said, was not included in the data analysis used by the national testing company to reset the GED scores, but the state did participate in a separate trial measuring GED students’ college readiness. Georgia also offers a program allowing some students without a high school diploma to pursue their GED and some type of professional certificate at the same time through the tech college system.

Smith said she and other adult education leaders in other states had been suggesting a scoring review for a while, and are satisfied with the credibility of the results. More importantly, employers looking to hire GED holders should also be satisfied, she said.

“Employers should feel comfortable that the GED Testing Service did the necessary research needed to re-calibrate the test, Smith said. “We want them to feel comfortable with the credibility and voracity of the exam, to know that the pass rate is legitimate.”


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