State House News Service

No More GED: Mass. Chooses New High School Equivalency Test

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

State education officials announced Thursday 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,” Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester said in a 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 and a GED spokesperson, 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 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 who said adults “need some time to become familiar with the new standards.”

HiSET bills itself as a “more accessible, affordable alternative.”

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 WalMart and Dunkin Donuts.

“I believe Mass is the only state that currently uses computer-based intake exams in all of its adult education programs. 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?” Turner wrote in an email. “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 state adults seek the high-school-equivalent credential through local testing centers in adult learning centers, community colleges and public schools, according to DESE. Over the years, the credential has become colloquially known as simply the GED.

The 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.

Chester has kept the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education informed about the vendor selection and the decision does not require a board vote, Considine said.

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