The more than 400,000 Coloradans trying to make a living without a high school diploma will now have two more ways to reach that milestone and become more self-sufficient.
This week, the Colorado Board of Education approved adding two alternatives to the GED test for people to receive an equivalency high school diploma.
“Our mission is to expand opportunities,” said Wade Buchanan, president of The Bell Policy Center, which advocated for the change. “We have to look at this from the viewpoint of the student. One size does not fit all, people learn differently and test differently.”
The change passed on a vote of 4-3 on Thursday. With the approval, Colorado becomes the sixth state to accept all three: the GED diploma, the High School Equivalency Test and the Test Assessing Secondary Completion. Three states, including New York, use only the TASC test; seven use only the HiSET; and two accept both the GED test and the HiSET.
Since the GED battery of tests was rewritten in 2014 to align with Common Core standards, the number of Coloradans taking the GED test has dropped 75 percent. So few people are passing, Buchanan said, it will affect Colorado’s supply of skilled workers.
“It’s important to remember that the high school equivalency test is not the same thing as a college entrance exam,” he said. “We’re asking ‘Do you have the knowledge and skills necessary to earn a high school diploma?’ It’s not about weeding people out, it’s about giving them credit for the skills and knowledge they have.”
Teresa Malone, executive director of the Durango Adult Education Center, said she isn’t sure what the change will mean for the center and its students.
The HiSET, administered by the Educational Testing Service, says adult education centers can use the same curriculum and materials they’ve been using for GED preparation. TASC, created by McGraw-Hill Education and administered by Data Recognition Corp., would require purchasing new materials and redesigned curriculum.
Both allow students to take the test either online or with pencil and paper, unlike the GED, which is strictly online. That might allow students who are not as computer savvy to pass at higher rates.
“But they’re going to have to become comfortable with computers,” Malone said. “Almost every job but some trades requires computers. If they want an entry level job at Walmart or Home Depot, they have to apply online. And cashiers at those stores work on computers.”