State DOE Looking to Graduate from Relying Solely on GED

Changes in venerable equivalency exam prompts state to evaluate alternatives

With the GED exam about to go through some big changes in both cost and questions, the state Department of Education is reaching out to find other options for those seeking a high school equivalency degree.

One significant change: The 2014 GED will be aligned with the national Common Core State Standards. It will also be given entirely online, and, perhaps most importantly, the New Jersey-based developer of the exam is doubling its price, to $120.

Given the changes, the state Department of Education last week sent out a notice to schools and others pertinent parties that it would soon be seeking potential alternatives to the GED for New Jersey residents, so as to provide more options for those seeking an equivalency degree in the state.

“This shift affords the Department the opportunity to perform an in-depth analysis of alternative assessments with the goal of offering a range of testing options to New Jersey residents — with an eye towards the highest-quality assessments and the lowest-possible testing costs,” read the memo from Peter Shulman, the state’s assistant education commissioner.

The process will start with an RFP, a request for proposal, from potential vendors for an equivalency test to compete with the GED Testing Service, a new for-profit company that partners with the American Council on Education and Pearson VUE, part of the publishing giant that is currently headquartered in Upper Saddle River.

In the meantime, Shulman said that the state would ensure the continued use of the paper exam as well as an online version.

The administration expects to go to the State Board of Education in November to amend the code to allow for other options than the GED, he said.

The changes in the GED have sparked some nationwide debate and discussion. The Pearson-developed exam is the dominant equivalency test used in more than 35 states, according to the National Ault Education Professional Development Consortium.

Other organizations are trying to get into the field, including the Princeton-based ETS, but so far has approval in just four states, according to the consortium. New Jersey is among 10 states opening up the process to seek tests beyond the GED.