What we've learned about high school equivalency

The past 18 months shook up state education communities preparing students to earn a high school equivalency certificate. With some states dropping the old test for new ones, states choosing to have multiple options, and the implementation of College and Career Ready (CCR) standards, the landscape drastically changed in a short period of time.

Here’s what educators and those looking to achieve this educational milestone should know about the past year and a half.

1. 2014 marked the first year in U.S. history that alternative tests were used by states.

Twenty states administered alternative tests after choosing to either drop the GED® test within their state or offer multiple tests for students to choose from. The HiSET® exam developed by Educational Testing Service and the TASC Test Assessing Secondary Completion™ by CTB/McGraw Hill allow those who haven’t completed high school the opportunity to earn their high school equivalencies. Introducing numerous branded tests broke conventional terms and understanding on how people actually go about earning a high school credential.

2. People are learning you don’t “get a GED.”

Employers, education administrations and institutions of higher education incorrectly ask if an applicant has his or her “GED.” Having proof of a high school credential is essential for many careers and postsecondary education opportunities. However, the GED is a test — not something earned.

HiSET, GED, and TASC scores are mobile, meaning they can be used for employment and college applications throughout the United States. Test takers now have a choice as to what test they choose to take based on various categories such as price or whether the test is available in paper- and/or computer-delivered formats.

3. The results are the same.

All three tests measure high school equivalent skills and each has implemented CCR standards. Whether one takes the HiSET, GED or TASC test, the end result when passing these tests is the individual earning a state-issued credential. For example, in California, a student can take either test and earn the California High School Equivalency Certificate when passing each tests subject areas.

Options in how one earns a high school credential have changed, but the outcomes are the same – achieving a necessary credential which increases one’s ability to achieve a more secure future. These same changes have a strong chance of coming to Texas as state officials consider whether Texans should have a choice in how they earn a high school equivalency certificate.

Amy Riker, Educational Testing Service

Amy Riker is a former adult educator and now the national executive director of Educational Testing Service's High School Equivalency Test (HiSet) program.