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SB 64 Fails to Stop Implementation of Common Core in New GED

The South Dakota Legislature already has three mostly futile bills before it questioning or delaying the implementation of the Common Core curriculum standards. Senate Bill 64 in particular prohibits the state Board of Education from implementing Common Core or any other set of standards drafted by collaborating states before July 1, 2016.

But what about other departments implementing Common Core? In FY 2013, our Department of Labor and Regulation funded training to help 229 state prison inmates obtain their GEDs. This year, the new GED Testing Service, a partnership of the American Council on Education and the for-profit publisher Pearson, offers a GED test revamped to align with Common Core.

Gasp! Prisoners subjected to tests aligned with Common Core! Sounds like torture to me!

The new GED could be torturous for some inmates and other folks seeking an equivalent to a high school diploma. Contrary to some of the arguments you might hear from opponents of Common Core, alignment with the new standards hasn't dumbed down the GED. The new computer-based test will be notably harder:

To pass the new GED test, students will need some background knowledge, not just the ability to understand the passage in front of them. There will be more emphasis on critical thinking, more questions on science, and more writing. In addition, the scoring will change to identify whether the students who pass are just “high-school equivalent” or are at a new higher standard of “college- and career-ready.” C.T. Turner with the GED Testing Service says: “If we don't provide them something of value, and they don't have the information and skills they need, we are setting them up for failure” [Kavitha Cardoza, "The GED Test Is about to Get Much Harder, and Much More Expensive," The Atlantic, 2013.10.08].

Perhaps anti-Common Core agitators will amend Senate Bill 64 to prohibit the Department of Labor and Regulation from sneaking Common Core in through the back door of the state pen. It seems more likely, though, that the state might move away from the GED for fiscal rather than ideological reasons. GED Testing Service is charging $120 a pop, about twice what the old GED cost. A GED Testing Service spokesperson calls the higher price "rock-bottom pricing":

[C.T. Turner] says states will actually save money because until now local testing centers have had to pay separately for scheduling, proctoring, and scoring the test. All of that will be included in the new price. He says that states or private employers can always subsidize the test if they choose to [Cardoza, 2013.10.08].

Some states aren't convinced. So far, eleven states have moved to the HiSet, an alternative high-school equivalency exam developed by ETS and the Iowa Testing Service. HiSet price tag: $50.

Senate Bill 64 goes to Senate State Affairs (what? not Senate Education?) on Wednesday morning at 10 a.m. Let's see if anyone brings up GED and other manifestations of Common Core outside the Board of Education's purview.

Related: According to GED Testing Service's 2012 annual statistical report (the most recent data available), 81,935 South Dakota adults lack a high school credential. in 2010, 1,490 South Dakotans took the GED, 953 completed it, and 644 passed it. Our pass rate for test completers was 67.6%, slightly lower than the national rate of 69.1%.

American Indians made up 33.1% of South Dakota's GED test takers in 2012, but only 21% of our GED test passers. South Dakota's American Indian GED test takers have a 52.8% pass rate, compared to a 74.5% pass rate for white South Dakotans, a 74.0% pass rate for American Indians nationwide, and an 83.1% pass rate for whites nationwide.

Men and women taking the GED in South Dakota have comparable pass rates, 67.4% and 67.7%, respectively. Nationally, men tend to pass the GED more often than women, 72.8% vs. 64.5%, respectively.


  1. Deb Geelsdottir/ 2014.01.20

    I worked for Pearson for 3 springs as a test-scorer. The people I worked with were good. The corporate office dwellers were focused on how to make the most money from the testing boondoggle.

    Push for annual changes - er, improvements - so a new test must be written, more upfront charges justified, more and more profit!

  2. Samantha Erickson 2014.01.20

    Pretty curious to see how this all turns out. There's quite a bit of crazy going on with the GED stuff lately, and it seems like its only going to get even more crazy!

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