When the new General Educational Development (GED) high school equivalency test took effect on Jan. 1st, 2014, more than 40,000 Pennsylvanians were left stranded, with only portions of the old test complete, and no way to transfer their credits. Those adults faced losing all their progress and starting over from the beginning.
State Representatives Hal English (R-Allegheny) and Joe Hackett (R-Delaware) worked with the Pennsylvania Department of Education to solve this problem.
Hackett and English put forward separate legislation to allow passing scores from the old GED to transfer to the new test. However, by working with the Department of Education, the representatives were able find a solution before the bills were passed.
“That end solution was: scores are rolled over, and those that had successfully passed a portion would get credit going forward,” English explained. Now, students who have taken potions of the old GED have two years to apply to the Department of Education to have their scores converted into credits towards the new test.
The 2002 version of the GED was a five part test that emphasized reading comprehension, while the new 2014 edition is a four part exam that focuses more on math, science, and critical thinking. The tests can be taken in multiple steps.
English says he feared that forcing current students to start over on their testing would be devastating for them.
“I think the opportunity and the hope would probably be crushed, I really do,” English said. “It might just force more people just to abandon any further pursuit, thinking ‘Well, I started it, and now the system did me wrong.’”
So far, the Department of Education has received almost 2,000 requests to transfer scores. Of those, 1,887 have been processed and 1,100 have been approved. To be approved, students had to complete at least one portion of the old GED by December 31, 2013 and receive a qualifying score.
The GED is revised and updated every ten years or so, according to English. So far, he says, there are no long-term solutions in Pennsylvania to help those who are left behind the next time the test is replaced.