Texas’ GED Problem Worse than We Thought
Earlier this week CPPP released a policy brief showing that changes to the General Education Development (GED) test had led to fewer Texans taking the test and fewer passing it.
Since our report came out, we have clarified additional data with the Texas Education Agency (TEA), and it turns out that Texas has a much worse GED problem than we even imagined.
From 2002 to 2012, Texas only saw a 0.25 percent annual decline in test-takers. A nearly 45 percent drop in test takers in just two years is alarming, and it should encourage the State Board of Education to closely examine the GED test and alternative options for high school equivalency.
The number of Texans passing the test also declined after the changes. In 2012, 61 percent of all test-takers passed and received their Texas High School Equivalency Certificate. In 2014, after the release of the new version of the test, only 44 percent of all test-takers passed.
However, when you exclude paper-based test-takers (primarily only correctional facilities have a waiver for the continued use of paper-based tests), the pass rate in 2014 drops to 30 percent from 44 percent. This suggests that the computerized version of the test is a barrier to test-takers who lack computer literacy skills.
A high school diploma is a foundational step toward self-sufficiency and economic stability for all Texans. For those who are unable to complete their high school education, high school equivalency exams offer an alternative path to college and career.
In 2012, Texas ranked 50th in the country for its high rate of adults age 18 to 64 who lack a high school diploma or equivalent. Over 2.8 million Texans or 17.4 percent of the state’s residents lack this important credential, yet Texas only awards, on average, 32,000 Texas Certificates of High School Equivalency a year.
The General Education Development (GED) test©, developed by the American Council on Education and administered by Pearson, is the most commonly known equivalency exam. It is one of three tests available to test high school equivalency, and the only one currently used in Texas.
Recent changes to the price, rigor, and moving to a computer based format of the GED test led some states to re-evaluate which equivalency exam best meets their workforce and academic needs. That conversation is now moving to Texas. This week the Texas State Board of Education heard public testimony on expanding the high school equivalency exam contract to multiple vendors.
CPPP supports making all three high school equivalency exams available in order to provide choice and affordability to adult education service centers and test-takers. However, it is going to take much more than additional test options to tackle the unacceptably high number of adults without a high school diploma or equivalent.
For more information on the concerns around the GED test changes, the need for high school equivalency in Texas, and the available alternative, see our updated policy page Alternative Paths to High School Equivalency.
 There was a spike in the number of test-takers in 2013, as adult learners rushed to complete the exam before the introduction of the new test in 2014. For this reason, 2012 is a more representative baseline.  This analysis calculates pass-rates by comparing the total number of test-takers, those who took at least one part of the GED test, to those who passed. Texas should be held accountable for everyone who starts the process not just those who complete the tests. [i] Texas Education Agency. Public Information Request received May 1, 2015.