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Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Rise and Popularity of GED Tests in America

Rise and Popularity of GED Tests in the US

GED tests are widely employed in the U.S. to certify academic knowledge and skills at high school level.  The tests have gained much popularity since 1970 with more than 700,000 individuals taking the test annually.  A peak testing volume that numbers more than a million was attained in 2001.  The U.S. Census of 2000 indicated that approximately 40 million adults aged 15 years and older did not possess a high school diploma (American Council of Education, 2007).

The GED is largely seen as a major second chance” program for adults who did not complete high school for various reasons (Danielle, 2006).  The past three decades have seen the institutionalization of GED and preparation programs through state, federal and local adult education workforce investment programs.  Public spending on the tests and preparation for them has reached a remarkably high level (Song & Hsu, 2008). Supporters of the program believe that the recipients of GEDs have attained the same skills as individuals who hold traditional high school diplomas, and that they share equal chances of employment and access to higher education.

Numerous studies (Andrew & Whitney, 1981; Cameron & Heckman, 1993; Song & Hsu, 2008) about the implications of obtaining a GED certificate have been motivated by the high popularity and influence of the GED.  A majority of researchers have concentrated on the outcome of labor markets and the GED recipients’ post secondary success, especially when compared to ordinary high school graduates.  Most studies on GED recipients’ labor market outcomes have made comparisons across gender, age, race or geographical regions.  Studies have often yielded mixed results depending on the applied research methodologies and sample used.

A majority of recent studies seem to argue that holders of GEDs should not be categorized as high school graduates, and should be separately documented.  Greene and Winters (2005) asserted it is not appropriate to consider recipients of GED as graduates in the calculation of graduation rates since this will “credit the very schools that failed to graduate these students with their successes” (p. 76).  The fundamental reason that the rate of graduation is calculated is to assess the performance of schools.  Greene and Winters contended that the recipients of GEDs are not truly graduates of any specific school.  Instead, they are high school dropouts who take it upon themselves to earn an alternative certificate later in life.

Other studies (Haveman & Wolfe, 1995; Heckman, & Vytlacil, 1998) have excluded all recipients of GEDs from high school graduate calculations.  Costs and benefits of finishing high school with ordinary diplomas are affected by the presence of GEDs, and therefore, completely omitting GEDs may not provide an adequate picture.

Again, the number of GED certificates that were issued significantly increased in the 1990s.  An increasing number of these certificates went to individuals aged 19 or less.  An increased accessibility to GEDs is evident, especially for younger individuals, even though the content of academics within the program has become tougher (Laurence, et al., 1993).  Finally, an important role is played by economic considerations in whether a student obtains a GED or completes a traditional high school diploma.

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