Changes wrought to the GED thanks to the nearly nationwide implementation of Common Core have caused GED passing rates to plummet and dramatically hurt the job prospects of thousands of America’s poorest and least-skilled citizens.
That’s the argument of Diane Ravitch, a New York University professor, an educational policy analyst and a strong critic of Common Core.
The GED is a test designed to allow adult high school dropouts to obtain a certificate of high school equivalency. Many GED takers are middle-aged and dropped out of school decades before Common Core was even a twinkle in Bill Gates’s eye.
Pearson, a mammoth education company headquartered in London and a leading light in the Common Core movement, is currently the sole developer of the GED test.
Pearson changed the GED dramatically for everyone taking the test in the United States beginning in 2014. It’s only computer-based now. It’s much more focused on harder math and on essays.
The point of the changes, Pearson assured America, is to measure career readiness and college readiness in addition to measuring the basic skills taught in high school.
The $9 billion education conglomerate also wants the GED to reflect the Common Core State Standards Initiative, a set of K-12 math and language arts curriculum benchmarks and high-stakes standardized tests implemented in perpetually dwindling number states (right now: 43).
Via Cleveland-based writer Daniel McGraw, Ravitch relays data about the new GED that is so depressing that it is difficult to believe.
According to the data, more than 500,000 Americans earned the GED credential in 2013. In 2014, just 55,000 had passed by December.
In Florida, McGraw claims, 77 percent fewer people passed the GED in 2014 compared to 2013. In Michigan, the decrease is 88 percent, he says. In Texas (where Common Core has not been implemented), newly-minted GED recipients are down 86 percent.
In Ohio, about 18,500 fewer people obtained a GED in 2014 compared to 2013. Also, amazingly, claims McGraw, fewer than 100 inmates in Ohio prisons got a GED in 2014. In 2013, the number was close to 2,100.
In Cleveland, a program called Project Learn saw just one inmate pass the test in 2014 compared to 80 over the previous three years.
Assuming these startling numbers are accurate, part of the reason for the massive passage-rate drop is likely the impending changes. News of a changing GED likely motivated some people to pass the test in 2013, before it changed.
The low number of the test-takers and the high failure rate in 2014 is also a result of the changes to the test.
It’s likely harder, for one thing.
The new GED also simply different. The computer-only version is almost certainly burdensome to the many GED’s many unsophisticated test-takers — especially older ones and poorer ones who did not grow up amid the constant glow of computer screens.
Also, sample test sections now cost $6 a pop and require an Internet connection and credit card — two things some poor, rural Americans don’t have.
Another reason for the abysmal passing rate is structural. By making the GED more about careers and college-readiness, the test has necessarily become a barrier for the poorest, most unsophisticated Americans. Someone who has no desire to go to college but wants to have a chance at, say, a construction job that requires a high school diploma or its equivalent will have a much harder time passing the new computer-adaptive GED.