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High School Equivalency Credential: Overview and Current Activities

Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
October 11, 2013


The Department's Office of Adult and Community Learning Services (ACLS) oversees the administration of a high school equivalency assessment through a network of 28 local testing centers, located in adult learning centers, community colleges, and public schools. A passing score on the assessment earns a Massachusetts high school equivalency credential, which is widely accepted by employers and institutions of higher education in lieu of a high school diploma.

For many years, Massachusetts has used the General Educational Development (GED) assessment from the American Council on Education (ACE). ACE is a national non-profit organization of college and university presidents. ACE first developed the GED assessment in 1942, to provide a route for returning veterans who had not completed high school to establish their readiness for college or employment.

The GED is a battery of five tests in the areas of language arts-writing skills, language arts-reading, social studies, science, and mathematics. The assessment has been periodically revised and updated over the years; the last major revision was in 2002. Adults who are 18 years old or older may take the test if they have not previously received a high school diploma; sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds may take the test only if they are no longer enrolled in school. The fee for the test (currently $65) is paid by the test-taker. The Department provides grants to the test centers to help defray the cost of administration.

The attachment to this memorandum provides some statistics from the 2012 test administration.

Recent Developments

In 2011, ACE and Pearson LLC created a joint venture, GED Testing Service, to assume responsibility for the administration of the GED assessment. GED Testing Service subsequently announced that the current GED assessment would no longer be offered after December 2013. Beginning in January 2014, they will be offering a totally redesigned GED assessment, aligned to the Common Core State Standards and delivered primarily using computer-based testing.

In response to this development, and recognizing that the GED is not the only high school equivalency assessment available on the market, we decided to hold an open procurement to select a test vendor for Massachusetts for the next three years. (Many other states that have traditionally used the GED are doing the same.) We issued a request for proposals earlier this year, and three companies submitted proposals: GED Testing Service, ETS, and McGraw-Hill. The proposals are currently being evaluated by our procurement team, and I will give you an update on the selection process at the October 22 Board meeting.

The upcoming change to a new assessment is understandably causing some concern in the field. Testing centers are anxious to know what changes they will need to implement in order to offer the new assessment. Test-takers who have started to take the current assessment are rushing to complete it before it is discontinued in mid-December. Those who are planning to take the new test after January 1, 2014, would like more details on what it will look like. As soon as the selection of a vendor is completed, we will provide extensive information to answer these and other questions.

Deputy Commissioner Jeff Wulfson and ACLS Director Anne Serino will be available at the Board meeting to answer your questions.


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High School Equivalency Assessment: 2012 Massachusetts Data

Last Updated: October 17, 2013
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