Texas residents seeking to earn high school equivalency certificates may soon have less expensive, more flexible testing options.

The State Board of Education voted Wednesday to seek alternatives to the computer-based General Educational Development exam — possibly including paper-based tests. The 14-0 vote came a day after the board heard more than three hours of testimony from test-takers, teachers and education advocates who said the only high school equivalency test the state recognizes is too expensive and too difficult.

That test was revamped in 2014 after the nonprofit that previously administered the test partnered with the London-based for-profit testing company Pearson. The new exam is available only in a more expensive, computer-based format critics say discriminates against low-income residents.

The new test is also too difficult for a high school equivalency exam and more resembles a college entrance exam, critics told the board Tuesday.

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The tests should be “equivalent to a high school diploma at the most basic level,” SBOE vice chairman Thomas Ratliff said Wednesday when outlining what the board should look for when considering alternative exams.

Potential alternative exams could be less expensive than the $135 GED test, a cost many told the board was too high. Alternative exams might also be available in a paper-based format, another option requested during Tuesday’s meeting.

The state plans to start soliciting proposals from alternative testing vendors starting in October. The board could consider alternatives to the GED as early as January 2016.

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