Austin Jones, a 20-year-old high school dropout, got a pleasant surprise last week.
He had struggled to pass the math portion of the four-part General Educational Development test, or GED. On his third attempt, he failed by three points – or so he thought.
On Jan. 26, the GED Testing Service retroactively lowered the passing score for the GED test from 150 to 145.
“To me, it’s still hard to believe,” Jones said. “Honestly, I’m still trying to register it.”
Jones said his 5-year-old son, Oliver, has motivated him to take his education more seriously.
“For me to accomplish that is not only good for myself but it is good for him,” Jones said. “I would say he is probably my biggest motivation.”
Jones is one of 950 students in Washington who will retroactively pass the high school equivalency test, said CT Turner, a spokesman for GED Testing Service.
“Locally, of course, it is fantastic for us,” said Trina Clayeux, director of the Next Generation Zone, where Jones works. “The GED is a bit of a gatekeeper for many of our youth.”
The Next Generation Zone is run by the nonprofit Spokane Area Workforce Development Council and helps young people ages 16 to 24 get their GEDs and, hopefully, a job.
The change retroactively affects students who have taken the test since Jan. 1, 2014, according to GED Testing Service. That’s about 20,000 students across the country.
The GED Testing Service also added two new designations: the GED College Ready and the GED College Ready + Credit.
Students who score 175 points on each test can receive up to 10 college credits, Turner said. Students who score 165 on the tests may be able to bypass non-credit college courses and waive college entrance exams.
The score change was made after the GED test was overhauled in 2014. At that time, the test went from five tests to four and was aligned with state common standards, said Raju Hegde, the dean for adult education at Spokane Community College. This made the test more difficult, he said.
“Immediately after that … there was a huge drop just in the number of people taking the test,” Hegde said.
The score change is an attempt to address the increased rigor of the test, he said, without eroding the accomplishment of passing it.
Hegde argues that what makes a student successful in college is only partially determined by content knowledge.
“We are always looking for a balance between content knowledge and the other (things) that allow people to be successful,” he said.
The change will affect a number of students enrolled at the community college, but Hedge said he’s unsure how many.
“What we do know is that locally, if we know a student scored between 145 and 150 and they have been studying to retake that test, we say, ‘No, just wait,’ ” he said.
Turner said the score change was implemented after a study found that GED students were doing better in college than their high school graduate counterparts.
Students who retroactively passed the test in Washington will receive their diploma between March 1 and March 4. The GED score is based on a sample of high school graduates from the class of 2013 who took the GED test.
Although Jones doesn’t know exactly what he will do now that he has his GED, he is excited to explore his options.
“It opens doors,” he said. “It is one more thing to take off my list.”
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