October 16, 2020
Thanks to Sydney Files for today’s post. This post is the fourth in the series Our Mission Extends Beyond Us.
In 1942, the General Education Diploma (GED) was developed by the American Council on Education (ACE) in collaboration with military, government, and higher education officials. It was created to meet the needs of World War II veterans who had left high school to join the war effort. Created as a prior learning assessment, the GED gave military personnel the academic credentials necessary for civilian life and postsecondary education. Since its initial implementation, the GED has expanded to a wider audience, and has revised exam content over the years to reflect present high school academic standards.
The most recent revision occurred in 2014 when ACE partnered with Pearson to develop a more rigorous exam that reflected common core standards being adopted by various states. The resulting exam was only not a more demanding credential, but it created performance standards that helped solidify the GED exam as a pathway to college. Using years of data, performance indicators were created that included career and college readiness standards to be used for college admissions. The 2014 revisions included two additional passing levels: GED College Ready Scores (165-174) which indicate skills that allow students to be successful in college level courses and qualifies for waivers from placement testing or remedial education, and GED College Ready + Credit Scores (175-200) which indicates student skills taught in entry level college courses and could be eligible for as many as ten credits.
Since the introduction of these scores, over 200 colleges and universities have created policies to allow students to forgo placement exams or entry level courses. In Arizona, the tri-state university system accepts scores of 170 or higher in each content area as an entrance exam to the universities, and the Maricopa Community College system accepts them as an entrance exam and awards college credit for students who score at the 175 level. This inclusion of the GED exam in college admissions increases the accessibility of post-secondary education to students by saving them time and money. For these reasons, the International Commerce High School uses the GED Ready exam as the standardized assessment to measure growth and proficiency for student academic achievement.
The mission of the International Commerce High school is to prepare students for post-secondary goals which includes the workforce, training programs, community college, or a four-year university. The official GED and GED Ready practice exams are two assessments implemented at the International Commerce High Schools to help students reach their career objectives. To measure growth and proficiency, students have the opportunity to take these exams three times while enrolled at the high school: once upon enrollment, again upon completion of foundational coursework, and finally before graduating.
There are several reasons why the official GED and GED Ready practice exams are the assessments of choice for the International Commerce High School versus other exams like the American College Testing exam (ACT), the Standardized Assessment Test (SAT), the ACCUPLACER, and the everchanging Arizona state-standardized exams:
1. Nationally standardized exams like the ACT, SAT, and ACCUPLACER are not measures of the high school proficiency and research indicates they do not strongly predict postsecondary success and should not be required in the admissions process.(1) Arizona state-standardized exams are intended to be indicators of proficiency at certain grade levels, but many of these exams have been made by volunteer content experts and have not been validated by psychometricians. Additionally, since 2014 the state has rotated between several assessments which has done little to accurately measure student proficiency over time. The GED is the best assessment tool for all students, regardless of their postsecondary plans, because of its consistency and fully aligned content for high school, and career and college readiness standards.
2. The GED is available on demand and students can take the exam as it fits into their schedule. With the exception of the ACCUPLACER, all of these potential assessments are to be taken at certain times of the year within a limited time frame. Students can take the official GED at the Grey Testing Center, a certified Pearson Vue examination center through Harrison Middleton University, during school hours to help students finish their course of study.
3. There are robust feedback tools for score improvement in the official GED and GED Ready practice exams. This provides a targeted study plan to help students attain passing scores for post-secondary goals. Actionable feedback is provided by practice materials published by ACT, SAT, and ACCUPLACER exams, but the official exam offers no detailed study plans for score improvement. There is no feedback provided on any of the practice or actual standardized tests offered by the Arizona Department of Education. Further, there is no potential for college credit upon receiving a high score for any of these standardized assessments.
Since 2014, the International Commerce High School has had over 550 students take the official GED exam with 94% of them passing all four sections (language arts, math, science, social studies, and civics) as compared to the national pass rate of 85%.(2) Over 18% of students at the school have tested at the Career and College Ready level and close to 3% of students have tested at the Career and College Ready + Credit level, which both metrics are on par with national averages.
Campus % of Students who earned % of Scores at College % of Scores at College
GED credential (145-200) Ready Level (165-174) Ready Level+ (175-200)
Tempe (n=171) 96.5% 23.4% 4.6%
Phoenix (n=383) 91.6% 16.1% 1.8%
Total (n=554) 93.1% 18.4% 2.7%
National Averages 85% 9-27% 1-8%
The International Commerce High School’s success can be traced to its methodology. Students have an individualized learning plan where they focus on one subject at a time and move through curriculum at an accelerated pace. They can access content, lessons and material at school, home, and when it is convenient for them. Students do not move onto the next lesson until they have mastered the content and have demonstrated that mastery through an inquiry-based discussion with an instructor. During discussions, instructors guide students through content by asking questions on primary source documents read by the student. In mathematics or courses that do not require a reading selection, students are required to orally explain how they got their answers. If students are unprepared or unsure of their responses, instructors empower students to find the answers to their questions by showing them where to look rather than telling them the answers outright. This process has helped both low and high-achieving students alike to meet career and post-secondary goals.
(1) Bradley, D. R., Hiss, W., Bruce, M., Datta, M., Kinsman, S., Provasnik, S., & Smedley, J. The Optional SAT Policy at Bates: A Final Report. Lewiston, ME: Bates College, Committee on Admissions and Financial Aid, February, 1990.
(2) The GED Testing Service, The GED Program: A Guide for Admissions Officers (https://ged.com/wp-content/uploads/College_admissions_guide.pdf ) (GED Testing Service, 2016).
To read previous posts in this series, visit hmu.edu/hmu-blog
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