The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
The GED Gets Some Competition

For the first time in nearly 70 years, the GED is going to have some real competition. McGraw-Hill and Educational Testing Services are both rolling out new tests to fill the adult testing niche currently occupied by the GED, and they’re already getting some traction: New York State, among others, is planning to switch from the GED to one of these two competitors. The GED, published by the nonprofit American Council on Education, is also transforming to adapt to new academic standards, and will be rolling out new, computerized tests next year, as the Wall Street Journal reports.

But if the GED is eventually lapped by its competitors, it won’t be because its model has failed. Indeed the need for a high-school equivalent standardized test is more acute now than ever, and the new companies moving into the market are borrowing the most successful elements of the GED for their own products:

All three new tests will mirror the old GED in many ways: They will be five to eight hours long and cover the basic subjects of reading, writing, math, science and history. But now the tests will likely have two cutoff scores, allowing states to award two levels of certificates—one representing simply a high-school diploma; the other, readiness for college-level work.

The success of the GED, which has helped millions of Americans earn high school credentials without sitting through four or more years of class, hints at another market niche that urgently needs to be filled: a college-level equivalent to a GED. This test would offer degrees to people who didn’t go to a four-year college but managed to learn enough to pass through independent study or online courses. It woud also allow students from non-elite schools to demonstrate their knowledge against their elite peers on a level playing field. The University of Wisconsin has taken some bold steps in this direction, but we need more schools to follow suit.

Higher education needs to move away from a time-served model to a stuff-learned model.

Published on February 21, 2013 5:00 pm