Meeting of the Board of Regents | February 2010
THE STATE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT / THE UNIVERSITY OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK / ALBANY, NY 12234
College and Career Readiness Working Group
John B. King, Jr.
General Educational Development (GED) Program Budget and Policy Considerations
February 26, 2010
Goals 1 and 2
Issue for Discussion
Does the Board of Regents support the strategy proposed by SED to address the current challenges regarding the funding of current GED operations and its long term policy and budgetary recommendations to the College and Career Readiness Working Group?
Reason(s) for Consideration
Implementation of policy.
This item will come before the Regents College and Career Readiness Working Group at its meeting on March 9, 2010.
In 2002-03 and 2003-04 the New York State GED program budget was $2.6 million from State General Funds, $1.3 million from Federal Workforce Investment Act (WIA), Title II funds and $200,000 from fees charged to people who requested copies of their diplomas and/or transcripts. In 2004, the U.S. Department of Education ruled that WIA funds could not be used for GED testing, so starting with the 2004-05 program year the New York State GED program was funded with $3.9 million in State General Funds and $180,000 from fees. There was a line in the budget that stated that SED could not spend less than $3.9 million for GED testing. This funding arrangement remained in effect through 2007-08.
In 2008-09 the Department's authorization to withdraw from the fee account was increased by $100,000 to $280,000. Although there was no longer a budget line for GED testing in the State Fiscal 2008-09 budget, the Department continued to allocate $3.9 million for GED testing that year. The September 2008 rescission, the 10% cut in SED's State Operations Budget for State Fiscal Year 2010 and another rescission in October 2009 resulted in a reduction in the GED budget to $2.7 million for 2009-10.
Due to the proposed budget cuts and the Department's State Operations funding, it is anticipated that funding for GED testing will be further reduced to $2.4 million for 2010-11, a 40% cut in state funds since 2008-09.
The work with GED is critical and provides opportunities for thousands of our adult students to earn a New York State High School Equivalency Diploma which opens doors to higher education, apprenticeship positions, and post secondary training. In 2008, New York State provided the greatest opportunity for adult students to earn a high school equivalency diploma by conducting over 58,000 GED test administrations. We also have the greatest number of testing centers to promote availability for our diverse students and regions throughout the State. NYSED supports these opportunities by not charging a fee to take the test or by requiring other pre-requisites for taking the GED and earning a high school equivalency diploma. However, these enhanced opportunities for our adult students have resulted in NYS having the lowest GED pass rate in the nation.
The New York State GED pass rate has fluctuated between 50-60% for several years. Students in State-funded preparation programs are required to take the Official Practice Test (OPT) and attain a total score of 2250; however that score equates to a GED passing rate of only 48%. Additionally, GED instructors receive no pre-service prior to teaching in GED preparation classes. The GED exam covers content in math, social studies, science, in addition to measuring candidates’ reading and writing abilities. Few, if any, teachers have certification and experience in all five subject areas prior to becoming GED instructors. One of the charges of the Regents College and Career Readiness Working Group will be to review and recommend any needed updates to our statewide GED testing policy.
Currently, the Department will be able to pay needed invoices for the remaining period of this fiscal year ending March 31, 2010. Our statewide testing center administration contracts total $1.15 million per fiscal year at the $20 reimbursement per test administered rate. The Department will not have sufficient funds to continue supporting the GED testing contracts for both Rest of State (ROS) and New York City for the full fiscal year which begins on April 1, 2010 barring additional funds to the GED testing initiative from the legislature or a reallocation within the Department from alternate state operations.
While the College and Career Readiness Working Group will be providing recommendations to the Board in regards to revising our statewide testing program which will impact our overall GED testing budget, these changes and revisions will most likely not be implemented quickly enough to address and resolve our immediate budgetary needs. The department has, therefore, developed some short and long term recommendations to address these critical needs.
A. Short Term Needed Actions to Address Immediate Budget Concerns:
1. Budget Request: The board has already submitted a $2 million budget request to the legislature to fund current operations ($900,000), support an online GED test registration program ($100,000), promote availability of the Official Practice Test (OPT) to enhance student readiness ($700,000), and to expand pre-collegiate GED bridge programs to ensure student success from GED to College, the workforce, and beyond ($300,000).
2. Request to Use Federal WIA Funds: SED Counsel has already submitted a 90 day letter to the Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) to request limited use of WIA funds to support special accommodations of GED test administrations. This will provide about $200,000 to $400,000 annually to support testing throughout the State.
3. Suspend Funding of $20 Reimbursement Contracts: The Department will send a notice to the field and to our contract holders that the ROS contracts (about 45 contracts with 112 sites at BOCES and school districts) will expire and not be renewed on June 30, 2010. The NYC contracts (8 contracts for 22 sites at NYCDOE buildings, CUNY, CBOS, EOCs, and private providers) will need to be terminated (they run from January 1, 2010 - December 31, 2010) effective June 30, 2010. NYSED will continue to support the GED testing sites by paying for all testing materials, the ACE per site fee, the ACE per person fee, training for test administrators, and the scoring and overall oversight of testing operations. The statewide contract to ACE will continue to be covered by NYSED at approximately $1.45 million annually. It is contemplated that without the $20 per test reimbursement, many of the testing centers will reduce their number of testing sessions to minimize costs. The purpose of the advanced notice is so that the various testing sites can plan and schedule their test dates and make any needed adjustments with sufficient notice to best accommodate students. In addition, this notice will indicate that if and when additional funding sources are made available or become apparent to the Department for GED testing, we will re-institute the testing site contracts.
4. Secure Additional Approvals from DOB to Access GED Revenue Funds: The Department has requested from the Division of the Budget authority to withdraw additional funds from the GED revenue account to replace some of these funding reductions. The revenue account is a small fund that the GED Unit generates by charging test takers a ten dollar processing fee for duplicate copies of their GED diploma and test transcript. At this point, DOB has indicated that they will allow SED to utilize $650,000 from this revenue account for GED test administration in the 2010-11 fiscal year. These funds will allow us to continue to support the individual test site reimbursement contracts from April 1, 2010 to June 30, 2010. This is a critical time period to allow the testing sites sufficient notice prior to the suspension of the current contracts on July 1, 2010.
B. Possible Longer Term Actions to Address GED Policy and Budget Concerns to be Considered by the College and Career Readiness Working Group:
- Require that all GED candidates in Alternative High School Equivalency Programs, High School Equivalency Programs and Department-funded adult education programs show readiness to take the examination by passing the Official Practice Test (OPT) with minimum scores of 450 on each of the five subtests and a total score of 2500. Raising the minimum total OPT score to 2500 from 2240 equates to a GED passing rate of approximately 80% from 48%. The Department is exploring the possibility of making the OPT available to all who wish to take the GED by entering into a statewide license with the publisher of the OPT, Steck-Vaughn.
- Replicate the GED Assessment Project (GAP) for several areas in New York State. The GAP program, which has been in existence since March 2002, was developed by the Queens Educational Opportunity Center and has assisted approximately 5,346 participants in taking the Official Practice Test (OPT) as well as introducing them to the details of the overall GED Testing process.
- Promote the enhanced use of the eighteen Literacy Zones that have been created with adult education funding to close the achievement gap in urban and rural communities of concentrated poverty and high concentrations of families and individuals with limited literacy or English language proficiency. They are required to make the OPT available to all eligible stakeholders who wish to take the GED.
- Develop a curriculum that prepares candidates for the testing experience. Focus on the GED as being a first step towards further career and college opportunities rather than as a limited goal. Model existing programs at CUNY and several community colleges throughout the state.
- Develop a three credit hour course on GED instruction. The Office of Adult Education and Workforce Development has already recently written and delivered a three-hour training for GED instructors on how they can help students prepare for the GED exam. NYSED would assemble a task force of GED instructors, alternative and adult education program managers, college faculty Regional Adult Education Network and Department staff to review this work and make formal recommendations for course content. The course could be made available online.
- Amend Commissioner’s Regulation 100.7 to require that instructors in Alternative High School Equivalency Preparation and High School Equivalency Preparation Program be certified in GED instruction.
- Amend Commissioner’s Regulation 157 to require all GED instructors of adults be certified in GED instruction.
- Partner with the Department’s Bilingual Technical Assistance Centers' work with the parents of K-12 students of limited English proficiency to guide them to adult education programs, including classes that assist them in becoming more involved in their child’s education and English language acquisition/ GED preparation programs.
- Create a Department-led task force on the needs of GED students and charge that task force with identifying methods to improve graduation rates.
- Research larger issues that need to be better connected and addressed with the legislature and the Governor's Office regarding GED test administration, equitable EPE (Employment Preparation Education) funding, and broad based funding to support our adult students with literacy, education, and training needs.
- Review and research GED preparation and test administration practices and protocols of states with high pass rates such as Iowa and Delaware, and states with similar student demographics to New York like California, Florida, and Illinois.
VOTED: The Board of Regents approves this proposed plan of action to properly respond to the critical situation involving GED operations and immediate budget concerns.
Timetable for Implementation
The Regents action on the short-term recommendations for the GED Budget and proposed considerations by the College and Career Readiness Working Group is effective immediately. Staff will gather feedback from the field on the long-term recommendations to inform the final recommendations of the College and Career Readiness Working Group.