Posted by: Tom Ross | February 10, 2014

A Bridge to Somewhere

Click on the title above to view on the CTE Central Blog website.

What does GED stand for? Is it Graduate Equivalency Diploma or General Education (Equivalency) Diploma or General Education Degree (Diploma). Everyone I ask gets it wrong. The GED Testing Center has a strong opinion about it.  But it is most commonly called the high school equivalency diploma. In California students receive a California High School Equivalency Certificate.


For Educators

GED stands for General Educational Development tests and refers to a battery of examinations administered by states to measure skills and knowledge comparable to those learned in high school.

There are many reasons why a student can no longer attend high school. The GED is more than a lucky option—it’s a second chance.

The economic impact of students dropping out of high school is staggering, including the loss of $1.8 billion in tax revenue annually. The GED test has helped more than 19 million students reach their goal since its inception. Almost 800,000 adults took the test last year alone.

The GED as we know it today is administered jointly by the American Council on Education (ACE) and Pearson Education, a collaboration that began in 2011. This year, they are launching an updated version, the GED 2014 Testing Program, summed up in this video. The new GED tests four content areas: reasoning through language arts (which combines reading and writing), mathematical reasoning, science, and social studies as part of their list of career and college readiness expectations.

Why update the GED? John Pulley, former senior editor and reporter for the Chronicle of Higher Education sums it up this way for ACE:

“The GED test, until now a relatively discrete examination, will become a vehicle for assessing where people are, where they want to go, and how they can get there, say the initiative’s architects. Formerly a pass-fail test, it will evolve into a diagnostic tool with three or four levels of outcomes and specific information about the test taker’s abilities in various areas. That data will help test takers, colleges, and employers determine the best path for reaching mutual goals, whether a course of study or a potential career field, testing service leaders say.”


LaGuardia Community College in New York is taking it a step further, linking the GED tests to “the skills needed for some of the most in-demand jobs.”

La Guardia CC did this by contextualizing the curriculum. If a student is seeking a job in the health field, math problems make more sense if they are in the context of the workplace. For example, a math problem can involve the amount of medicine to administer adjusted to the patient weight, rather than typical math problems that involve “two trains going at different rates at different times.”


As Gail Mellow, the president of La Guardia CC, said in an interview for NPR, “…[I tell my students] ‘yes, you need to learn at a high school level, but you are an adult now. And you need to think about how your learning will be applied in the world of work.’ And that seems to really motivate the folks who are coming back for a high school equivalency exam.”

She also suggests that GED programs need both professional teachers–unusual in most such programs–and the kind of support services that include soft skills, survival skills, and basic job interview skills, including how to write a resume.

Dr. Mellow feels that the link is the community college, and “teaching as if the whole person mattered–as if they have lives…you can’t separate out…the affective, the emotional, the social aspects of learning.” “Let’s make…everything a student learns in preparing [for the GED] really relate to work.”

For more information on what La Guardia Community College is doing, refer to their Pre-College Academic Programming (PCAP) web site as well as the NPR interview above.

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