SED Seal                                                                                   




AEWD / Strategic Planning Work Group


Kevin G. Smith


General Educational Development (GED) Program
Update and Discussion


November 1, 2010     


Goals 1 and 2




Issue for Discussion

To update the Board on the status of GED and to discuss long-term steps towards the development of a new statewide policy that would maintain student access and opportunities while providing for greater levels of student readiness and overall success rates.

Reason(s) for Consideration

At its March 2010 meeting, the Regents approved a short term action plan to address immediate budget shortfalls within the GED testing office.  In addition, the Board directed the Department to pursue long-term action steps that would result in a new statewide GED policy that would raise the overall New York pass rate, promote student opportunities for readiness and success, and address long-term funding issues.

Proposed Handling

This item will come before the Regents AEWD / Strategic Planning Work Group at its November, 2010 meeting.

Background Information

The Department’s GED program provides opportunities for thousands of New Yorkers to earn a New York State High School Equivalency Diploma.  More than ever, a high school diploma or the equivalent serves as the gateway to higher education, apprenticeship and post secondary training leading to employment and career opportunities. 

New York leads the nation in access to the GED test

In 2008, New York State provided opportunities for the nation’s largest number of out-of-school youth and adults to earn a high school equivalency diploma by conducting over 58,000 GED test administrations. In 2009, New York administered 55,589 tests, just slightly behind California.  New York also has the greatest number of testing centers to provide access for our diverse student population. New York State Education Department supports these unfettered opportunities by being one of only two states to not charge a test taking fee or to require readiness prerequisites.  However, these enhanced opportunities have contributed to NYS having one of the lowest GED pass rates in the nation.  

More test takers unprepared than prepared

New York GED test takers fall into three categories:

  1. Students referred by Department funded preparation programs.  Some test takers are officially referred by Department-funded programs after passing an Official Practice Test that confirms their readiness. All official referrals include a Testing Authorization Form (TAF) that provides student demographics and shows readiness by indicating that the student has passed the Official Practice Test at the minimum level required by the American Council on Education. 
  1. Students referred by preparation programs not funded by the Department.  Unfunded preparation programs, although coded and tracked, are not screened by the Department for effectiveness.  As a result, we  do not have a clear picture of the effectiveness of these programs.  Approximately 33 percent of test takers came from one of these two types of preparation programs.
  1. Students self-referred (walk-in students).  About 67 percent of New York’s test takers are not officially referred by preparation programs.   The pass rates for these test takers are far below rates for students from Department-funded preparation programs.  New York is unique in that self-referred test takers are more common than those referred from either funded or unfunded preparation programs. 

Declining Funds to Support the GED System

Enacted Budget appropriation language through 2006-07 specified a minimum amount of the Department’s General Fund P-12 appropriation that had to be spent on GED test administration.  Even though this language was eliminated, the Department continued to allocate $3.9 million of it General Fund P-12 appropriation for GED test administration in 2007-08 and 2008-09. 

Subsequent State budget cuts resulted in a reduction in General Fund support for GED to $2.7 million for 2009-10 and to $2.4 million in 2010-11.  The original 2010-11 budget level did not provide adequate funding for the GED testing program. Faced with this immediate funding urgency, the Department recommended a short-term action plan that the Board considered and approved at its March 2010 Meeting.

That action plan included the following initiatives:

1. Budget Request:  The Regents had already submitted a $2 million budget request.  Of this, $1 million was approved to fund current operations ($900,000) and support an online GED test registration program ($100,000). 

2.  Request to Use Federal WIA Funds:  The Department would request approval from the Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) for limited use of WIA funds to support special accommodations of GED test administrations.  This request was made and denied.

3.  Suspend Funding of $20 Reimbursement Contracts:  The Department would notify test centers that the $20 per tester reimbursement would be suspended effective July 1, 2010, although certain related costs would continue to be covered.

4.   Secure Additional Approvals from DOB to Access GED Revenue Funds: The Department had requested from the Division of the Budget authority to withdraw additional funds from the GED special revenue account, which is funded by fees for transcripts and diplomas, to replace reductions to General Fund support. DOB provided one-time approval to spend  $650,000 from the revenue account and up to $1.0 million from the Education Assessment Account.  This funding allowed the Department to resume the $20 reimbursement contracts effective August 12, 2010.

Data, Goals, and Statewide Policy Development

Pursuant to the Board's action at the March 2010 meeting, the Department is moving forward to develop and implement a new statewide policy on GED testing.  The overarching approach is to continue open access and availability of GED testing for 50,000 or more New Yorkers. The focus is to raise the GED pass rate by expanding test taker readiness: through high quality preparation programs; increased and more accurate pre-test administration and reporting; and greater access to readiness screening and online curricula.

The specific goal is to move the overall New York pass rate from one of the lowest in the nation (53.8% in 2009) to the national average (69.4% in 2009) and beyond over time.  New York is committed to reach the national pass rate of 69.4% for test takers and then continue to increase its pass rate annually.

The data on passing rates for GED test takers indicate that the largest factors between students who score proficiently on the GED and those that do not is access to high quality preparation programs and the pre-test administration of the Official Preparation Test (OPT) or other test readiness assessment. Of the 55,589 students who took the GED in 2009, approximately 67% did not report attending a prep program.   In 2009, the pass rate for students who did not report attending a prep program was 44%.  For students who had reported that they had access to a GED prep program, their pass rate was 66%.  Test takers who had no OPT scores indicated on their records show a passing rate in 2009 of just 38.3%.  Test takers who had reported OPT scores show a pass rate for this same period of 57.1%.

The validity and reliability of the OPT test administration process is critical in correlating accurate student alignment between OPT scores and GED test results.  A policy to enhance access to the OPT and other pre-tests to promote greater student readiness for the GED will need to include professional development, valid and independent pre-test administration practices, accountability, and monitoring of OPT testing practices at local preparation programs. 

Steps to Reform New York’s GED testing System to Ensure that Out of School Youth and Adults Succeed in College and Career Opportunities

The Regents College and Career Readiness Workgroup charged SED with developing immediate and long-term strategies to reform the system.  Ensuring readiness for GED success lies at the heart of these strategies. This includes addressing a major challenge as early as 2014 when the 5th version of the GED test will be aligned with common core standards.  These rigorous standards will require a dramatic lift in the skills needed for passing the GED.  For example, test takers will need to understand trigonometry as compared to the current standard which requires algebra. 

To meet this charge, the Department needs to pursue five parallel strategies. 


The Board of Regents will continue to support the initiatives and development of a new GED statewide testing policy.

Timetable for Implementation

With Regents support, the described activities will continue to move forward.