Some states seek alternative to GED

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For years, the GED was administered by the nonprofit American Council of Education. For decades, it had a near monopoly on high school equivalency exams.

That may be about to change.

After joining forces with Pearson, a publishing company, two years ago, the GED Testing Service, a for-profit company, was created. While the test has always been revised every decade or so, this latest, more challenging, more expensive version -- designed to emphasize college readiness -- has had a number of states searching for alternatives.

New York, New Hampshire and Montana have dropped the new GED in favor of tests developed by others, including CTB/McGraw Hill and the Educational Testing Service, that initially, at least, will more closely resemble the GED's old, mostly multiple choice model.

Those states cite the $120 cost, which they say will be prohibitive, although New York doesn't charge students for the GED (in Pittsburgh the cost ranges between $60 and $75). Some adult educators worry about the switch to all computer-based tests, where a student's computer navigating and keyboard skills are critical, and more literacy providers may fall by the wayside because they can't afford to buy new computers.

GED officials say they expect most states, including Pennsylvania, to remain on board, since 47 states have already adopted the new Core Curriculum State Standards that the test is aligned with, and Pennsylvania's Department of Education says it will have 150 GED test centers operational by the end of the year.

While other states may still opt out of the GED in favor of alternatives, the GED test's designers say the more challenging, computerized version is necessary to ensure college and job readiness.

"We're changing this from just a high school completion credential to something that is much more about workforce development," said Armando Diaz, a spokesman for the testing service. "A GED or a traditional high school diploma is not going to be enough. It has to become a steppingstone to something else, not an end in itself," he said.

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