For millions of Texans without high school diplomas, the test to earn a high school equivalency certificate has become harder and more expensive, the State Board of Education was told Tuesday, and thousands may be shut out of a chance to land better jobs or continue their educations.
The state should recognize high school equivalency exams other than the General Education Development test, which unfairly discriminates against low-income residents who lack regular access to computers, most of the 30 speakers addressing the board also said.
The criticism comes after the GED test was revamped in 2014 following its acquisition by Pearson, a London-based for-profit testing company. The test price has increased from roughly $80 to $135 and now can be taken only on a computer.
Since the change, the number of Texans taking the test has fallen almost 45 percent — from 50,476 in 2012 to 28,020 in 2014. Only 30 percent of those taking the online test have passed, compared to a 60 percent pass rate for the older paper test, according to the Texas Education Agency.
“It discriminates against the economically disadvantaged and the minorities who don’t have access to technology,” said Alan Dodd, a Fort Worth GED instructor. “My heart breaks for my students who come seeking hope and a better future and instead find a test 50 percent more expensive, and a computer-based technology they are not proficient at.”
The state should allow residents to take other tests to earn the Texas High School Equivalency Certificate, advocates said. There are other, less expensive options that can be administered in a paper format.
Tennessee, for instance, offers the nonprofit Educational Testing Service’s HiSET exam as an alternative to the GED, and has had positive results, said Jason Beard, a representative of the Tennessee Labor Department.
“I traveled here today to…urge Texas to offer the ETS HiSET exam as an option for Texans,” he said.
Only Texas prisoners can take the old paper version of the test, which many who spoke at the meeting said is much easier.
“Passing the new test requires a profound understanding of math that is an unnecessary and virtually unachievable hurdle for this population looking for an entry level job requiring no more than a GED,” said Gabriel Barna, a retired fellow at Texas Instruments who now works as a GED math tutor.
The board on Wednesday will discuss how to proceed with a request for proposals for alternative testing options.