ACE Reports the Lowest GED Pass Rate in Five Years

Just 68 percent of General Educational Development (GED) test-takers passed the high school equivalency exam in 2006 — the lowest pass rate since a more rigorous exam was introduced five years ago, a recent analysis by the American Council on Education (ACE) indicates. Specifically, the analysis shows that the pass rate is low because some testing service programs are not investing enough in student preparation.

ACE’s analysis indicates that candidate preparation and testing program policies drive GED pass and completion rates. Centers that prescreen and prepare students for the test do better than centers that allow students to take the test without formal instruction.

Data collected from more than 3,200 official GED Testing Service (GEDTS) centers revealed that in 2006, more than 714,000 people worldwide took some portion of the GED test battery measuring the candidates’ skill in writing, reading, social studies, science and mathematics. GEDTS, a program of ACE, reported that only 68 percent of candidates passed the GED Tests, 4 percent less than in 2005.

The 2006 pass rate is the lowest since ACE released a more rigorous test series in 2002 that more accurately reflects the level of knowledge a typical high school graduate is expected to have. However, researchers at GEDTS say that the small decline was “statistically insignificant.”

GED Testing Service programs vary state to state. States follow a basic set of criteria as it relates to candidate eligibility and test regulations, however states are allowed to set additional requirements for candidates. For instance, some GED testing centers prescreen candidates by requiring them to pass the official GED practice test and others require candidates to complete adult education classes before taking the GED. As a result, policies undoubtedly affect testing program outcomes and pass rates, researchers say.

“When jurisdictions invest in an individual’s preparation for the GED Tests, there’s a strong likelihood that they will realize a positive return,” says Sylvia Robinson, executive director of the GED Testing Service.

Generally, states with the most comprehensive preparation programs breed the highest pass rates. “States that allow individuals to just walk in off the street and take the GED Test with no form of preparation have low pass rates,” says Bob MacGillivray, deputy executive director of the GED Testing Service.

Among the states with the highest GED pass rates were Iowa at 98 percent followed by Alaska at 93 percent, Kansas at 87.8 percent and Alaska at 87.6 percent.

The racial distribution for all passers in 2006 was as follows: Whites at 62 percent, Blacks at 17 percent, Hispanics at 16 percent, American Indians at 2 percent, Asians at 2 percent and Asian/Pacific Islanders at 1 percent. A common motivation among all passers was the need to increase their level of education. Seventy percent of the total number of candidates had only completed half of their high school education.

–Michelle J. Nealy

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