One of CityLink’s core service areas is Education, and rightfully so. Education is the cornerstone of economic self-sufficiency with 99% of local jobs requiring at least a high school diploma or equivalent to gain employment. We currently have two at-capacity GED classes filled with eager and dedicated adult learners being taught by Cincinnati Public School teachers and supported by a committed crew of CityLink volunteers who help in the classroom and lead twice weekly Study Tables where students get one-on-one support.
But the new GED test that was put into place just over 2 years ago has made this already arduous task an even tougher road to follow. We wrote about the detrimental effects of these changes on Ohio test takers last year in this blog.
Last month the administers of the GED Test announced some welcome changes to the way it determines passing scores. Based on nationwide feedback from test takers and administrators regarding the tests’ difficulty level (not to mention its’ increased cost and the fact that it’s now given entirely online) the minimum passing score has been lowered by 5 points. This modification has inspired a renewed sense of hope and energy around our adult learners’ ability to reach the finish line.
So What’s the Big Deal?
According to numbers obtained by CleveScene, 540,000 individuals passed the GED test in 2013. But by the end of 2014, only about 55,000 had passed. Locally here in Ohio, just 3,699 people passed the test in 2014, that’s 90% fewer than those who passed the test in Ohio throughout 2013 (over 15,000).
Here at CityLink, we had 14 clients earn their GED in 2013, compared to zero in 2014 and 1 in 2015. Yet we have students who have been working on their GED here since we opened 3 years. We’d say that’s a pretty big problem, and based on the recent changes it’s clear we’re not the only ones who think so.
Over the past couple of years, complaints have been constant and increasing and the testing service that administers the GED (a partnership between the American Council on Education, or ACE, and Pearson, the world’s largest for-profit education company) has responded. At the end of January the group announced that they are lowering the minimum passing score by 5 points, from 150 to 145 out of 200 “recognizing that students who passed the latest, tougher version of it were doing better in college than high school graduates.”
Five points may sound like a small drop, but the number of people who’ve tested — and will continue to test — in that range is immense.
In addition to the new lower cutoff score, the GED will introduce tiered pass rates for the first time. A score of 165-174 certifies readiness for college-level work without remediation. And a score above 175, earned by about 1 in 10 test takers, could make students eligible for up to 10 hours of college credit through ACE’s Credit Recommendation Service.
This is a huge development and reflects what many adult educators including CityLink partners and volunteers, have been saying since the unveiling of the new test: the expectations were too high for the many people who need a GED credential to find employment to survive.
Why Did the Test Change in the First Place?
The 2014 revised version of the test was modified to be aligned with Common Core standards and aimed at college and career readiness. And while college readiness is a worthy aim, not all high school graduates do — or want — to go on to college. Why set that standard for GED graduates?
So the revamped test began serving a dual conflicted dual purpose. Historically its purpose was to help adults who didn’t complete school show that they do possess the skills of a high school graduate; however the new test is positioned as an indicator of college-level skills. This effectively shut out many people who needed a GED credential from obtaining one.
Here’s the Great News:
The great news is that Ohio has already decided to retroactively award GED credentials to people who scored a 145 which means 1,425 Ohioans who failed the test over the past two years are now being notified that they actually passed it or portions of it; including a few CityLink clients!
With education at the foundation of economic self-sufficiency, this change represents a positive move in the right direction for the many people who seek a GED credential to find employment, not four-year degrees, while simultaneously allowing test-takers with higher-ed ambitions the opportunity to show those college-ready skills.