High School Equivalency Testing: 3 Strategies to Navigate the Changing Landscape

Thursday, May 28, 2015 -- Leslie Holland

In the past 512 days since the 2014 GED® Program went into effect, the world of adult education has expanded, shifted, and diversified to meet the challenges of a new testing landscape and alignment with College and Career Readiness Standards. As educators, we have had to integrate new terminology, skill areas, and testing strategies to help our students meet these new goals. In addition, the shifting sands don’t seem to have settled yet as implementation of the Workforce and Innovation Opportunity Act (WIOA) emerges on the horizon.

Amid this ever-changing landscape, I have been fortunate to visit and present at several adult education conferences this spring: TALAE (Texas), PAACE (Pennsylvania), CCAE (California), MAACCE (Maryland), and COABE (National). This experience taught me some important lessons and revealed ideas that are helpful in finding our way across the map.

1. Have a clear understanding of what a tool or resource is for and what place it fills on your roadmap

During one of my presentations, we were speaking about the simulated testing experience and the role it plays in a learner’s comfort level and readiness for the official test. I posed the question, “What is the purpose of the GED Ready™ or the TASC™ and HiSet® practice tests?” No one answered, possibly thinking I was trying to pose a trick question. After a few moments of silence, I explained that the role of these practice tests is to act as a locator to identify if students are likely or unlikely to pass the actual exam. This turned out to be an “aha” moment for many. These practice tests can, indeed, recommend areas of need, but they were designed to indicate test readiness. They were not created as a tool for extensive intervention or remediation. Yes, you can use a meat cleaver to chop carrots, but is it the right tool for the job?

2. Communicate and practice the landscape of the assessment with learners as early as possible

At a recent conference, I shared an example of an open-ended fractions lesson with an instructor. This instructor was excited to see open-ended answers even at that more basic math level. She commented on the frustration that many of her more advanced students were expressing when faced with these item types. Although they had the skills, their lack of experience and fluency with supplying their own answer to the problem, rather than picking from multiple choice, caused them to do poorly on practice exams. This illustrates the importance of introducing students to the different kinds of questions they may encounter early so it doesn’t cause them to lose focus and detour from their goal. It is always important to have a read through and a few dress rehearsals prior to opening night.

3. Consider all the possible pathways available to get learners to their desired goals

For adult learners, the High School Equivalency credential landscape is predominately populated by three exams: GED, HiSET, and TASC. Each state has chosen to adopt one or more of these testing solutions. However, there is a fourth option that often gets ignored, but seems to be making a resurgence this year. Although it is not available in every state, the Adult High School Diploma should be considered by many learners.  This option carries different requirements and expectations, but completion can come much more quickly and with greater rewards.  Many jobs and careers require more than an Equivalency certificate. For example, if a student is interested in Military Service, some branches will not accept a GED or will limit service to a few areas. A diploma can provide greater opportunity in areas of service and advancement.  

Interested in learning about Edmentum’s programs for high school equivalency testing preparation? Check out our Adult + HigherEd Solutions page