Education News

New GED Test Could Face More Competition In Texas

Texas is expected to consider new alternative tests for completing high school.

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Randy Trask, president and CEO of GED Testing Services, talked with test administrators from Greater Houston earlier this year about the new GED.

When it comes to getting the equivalent of your high school diploma, the GED is a household name.

But even its president readily admits the test can be a pretty frustrating experience. Randy Trask leads GED Testing Services.

“They come in to sit for an exam over a one or day period where they have to take the entire battery. They pay up front. It turns out they’ve very rarely ready to take all of our exams in one sitting. And then they go home and wait by the mailbox.”

He says it could take weeks for the final score to arrive.

What’s more, many educators worry that that test didn’t match what high school is like today.

But Trask says that’s the old GED, which was more than 10 years old.

“We’ve made a number of changes that we believe will provide much more hope to our test takers to not only give it the first try but to stick with it once they go through.”

The new GED has different, tougher questions. It’s also all on the computer.

GED Testing Services created the new exam with help from Pearson. That’s the company that handles other standardized tests in Texas and other states.

But there could be an even bigger change to adult education in Texas.

There could be a totally new test to finish high school. One that’s not called the GED.

Stacy Avery is with the Texas Education Agency. She says the state is preparing a request for proposal, or RFP.

“We do anticipate that an RFP will be released at some point in 2014. And that may mean a change in provider. We don’t know. It’s really early to say for sure one way or another.”

Other states like New Jersey and Wyoming have approved alternative tests. Students there have three different choices.

Testing administrators
Testing administrators from the Houston region gathered earlier this year to learn more about the new GED, which debuted in January. It is a new test and is taken on the computer.

One of those alternatives is from CTB/ McGraw Hill. Mike Johnson is with the company.

“There have been 10 states that have done RFP processes so far in 2013 and all 10 have selected a new assessment. I think that’s a strong point for other states to look at that they need to do a side by side comparison and an open comparison.”

He expects Texas and about 20 other states to consider new providers this year.

Amy Riker is with ETS. It’s another group now competing in the adult education market. She says it used to be a monopoly.

“This is one of the first times there’s been competition in this market. Having options available is a good thing for our students.”

She says competition can mean cheaper fees for students who have to pay to take the exam.

But not everyone is convinced.

Karl Goode runs the testing center at Texas Southern University.

“I’m kind of skeptical. Yes, I am skeptical about that. Everyone should stay with one test. And the GED, General Educational Development — it has to be a standardized test.”

But Carita Webster with San Jacinto College has heard about these other tests. She wants to know more, maybe offer them to her students.

“I think it’s nice to have a variety. If we could offer something else, that would be great. It gives students more of an option, versus just doing high school or GED.”

If the State Board of Education does end up offering multiple ways for students to finish high school, there’s one thing to remember.

“The end credential is going to be the same no matter which test,” says Riker with ETS.

That credential is supposed to mean the same thing as a high school diploma.

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