High School Equivalency Changes

THE ISSUE

New York City residents who lack a High School Diploma can advance their educational and career goals by earning a High School Equivalency (HSE) Diploma. While the General Educational Development Test, or GED®, has been the primary pathway to a HSE Diploma since 1942, that landscape has gone through a substantial change in recent years. 

In March 2011, the American Council on Education and Pearson merged and announced that they would release a new more costly, more difficult, computer-based GED in 2014.  In November 2012, the New York State Education Department (NYSED) became one of the first states to consider opening up the HSE test to new vendors and issued a Request for Proposals (RFP), seeking to ensure that the State offers a HSE test that is both affordable and accessible.  In March 2013, the State announced that the winning bidder was CTB/McGraw Hill and that new HSE test would be the Test Assessing Secondary Completion, or TASC.  Starting in January 2014, New York State no longer offers the GED® as the free pathway to a HSE Diploma and has replaced it with the TASC exam.

There a number of important differences between the former GED and the current TASC:

  1. Subjects.  The TASC will cover the same 5 subsections – English Language Arts Reading, English Language Arts Writing, Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies – but these subject areas will be aligned with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), the Next Generation Science Standards and the Regents Social Studies Standards.  This means the test is shifting from a literacy test to a content/knowledge test.   
  2. Format.  The TASC will be available in both paper-based and computer-based format.  However, based on findings that test centers and preparation programs do not have sufficient computer capacity for all tests to be administered by computer in 2014, NYSED decided to phase in the use of the computer-based format.  In 2014, CTB/McGraw Hill will provide up to 20% of the tests on computer; in 2015, up to 40% of the tests will be provided on computer; and in 2016, up to 60% of the tests will be provided on computer.  NYSED will determine the actual number of tests available on computer each year based on an assessment of the State’s readiness for the transition to a computer-based test.
  3. Score.  The TASC will provide a “college readiness score” in addition to the “passing score.”

On a few issues, the former GED and the current TASC will be the same:

  1. Cost.  The State Education Code Section 317 requires the GED to be provided for free, and this is being interpreted to apply to any test that provides a pathway to the HSE diploma.
  2. Prerequisite.  There is no requirement to show test readiness to sit for the test.   

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OHCD’S WORK

Given the complexity and importance of this issue system-wide, OHCD collaborated with city and state stakeholders to help New York City prepare for this transition in order to maximize the number of people able to take the HSE test and increase the success of test-takers.  In particular, OHCD:

  1. Co-wrote and co-signed a letter sent to 4,829 people who have passed some but not all of the existing GED®, urging them to retake the remaining portions before their scores expire.
  2. Supported the “2013 GED® Campaign to the Finish” organized by the Fund for Public Advocacy.
  3. Consulted with the New York State Education Department, New York City Department of Education, CUNY, ten city agencies, three libraries, test preparation providers, professional development organizations and other stakeholders during the summer of 2013 to discuss concerns, identify priorities and  emerging issues, and assess potential avenues to address.
  4. Developed a comprehensive proposal in partnership with NYSED, at the request the NYC Workforce Funders, to explore ways that the funders could make investments in the adult education system in light of the HSE changes.  
  5. Presented at Philanthropy New York on April 24, 2014 in order to raise awareness about system needs – such as professional development, communications, computer infrastructure and skills, and test readiness – and discuss roles for the philanthropic community.