SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

January 6, 2014

State adopting new version of 'GED' exam

BY ANDY METZGER
State House News Service

---- — BOSTON — For the first time since 1945, Massachusetts adults taking a high-school-equivalency test will not take a General Educational Development, or traditional GED exam.

State education officials have announced they’ve selected Educational Testing Service to administer a new exam, called HiSET, which will measure the knowledge and proficiency equivalent to those of a high school graduate.

“ETS is an experienced testing company that will deliver a high-quality exam,” Mitchell D. Chester, commissioner of the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, said in a prepared statement.

The HiSET exam will be available in late January or early February, and information about the new fee structure will be released in “coming weeks,” DESE said.

After DESE went out to bid, GED Testing Service submitted a proposal as did CTB/McGraw Hill LLC and ETS. The three-year contract will not require any state expenditure, as people who take the test will bear the cost, DESE spokesman J.C. Considine told the News Service.

Considine said if the state had selected GED for testing this year, the cost for test-takers would be “slightly higher.”

The HiSET model will phase in the more rigorous, national career and college readiness standards rather than introducing them all in January, Considine said.

The GED costs a flat rate of $120, while a GED representative, C.T. Turner, said the HiSET prices in New Hampshire range between $95 and $160.

GED spokesman Armando Diaz told the News Service that the test service updates its test every decade, and that the last test was introduced in 2002.

“This year, we introduced a new test,” Diaz said.

Considine said that after GED announced it would develop a new test in 2011, DESE decided to go out to bid. He said the HiSET test will be available in both paper and computerized form, and ETS will phase-in the more “rigorous” national career and college readiness standards, which he said would be introduced all at once with GED’s test.

“That’s a potential pitfall for some of our adult learners,” said Considine, adding that adults “need some time to become familiar with the new standards.”

Turner said GED uses an online portal with “career pathways info” and the test ensures adults have computer skills “required for basic job tasks,” such as applying to Wal-Mart and Dunkin’ Donuts.

“I believe Mass. is the only state that currently uses computer-based intake exams in all of its adult education programs,” Turner wrote in an email to the News Service. “Why would they be afraid of a computer-based exam for a GED credential if they expect everyone to take a computer-based exam before starting any preparation programs? You would think Mass. would be in a better position to implement a computer-based test than most other states.”

Every year, about 11,000 Bay State adults seek the high-school-equivalent credential through local testing centers in adult learning centers, community colleges and public schools, according to DESE.

Beyond local schools, a number of agencies offer training programs aimed at the GED exams.

The GED program began as an effort to provide an educational credential to veterans returning from World War II, Considine said. The test is open to people over the age of 18 and 16- and 17-year-olds who are no longer enrolled in school.