This post is based on an article by Eric Fruits in RealClearPolicy published on February 16, 2022; Eric Fruits is a Portland State University adjunct professor of Economics.
At many American public schools, the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted and probably will continue to disrupt in-class education and learning.
For a growing number of high school students, the pandemic has resulted in discontinued and disrupted academic achievement and a serious decline in many students’ mental health.
While many high schools were transitioning from in-class learning to online and hybrid forms of teaching, quite a few local districts and states followed by lowering graduation requirements.
This development has caused colleges, employers, and students to question the true value of an American high school diploma.
So it would make sense to offer high school students an alternative to the diminished value of a high school diploma and the risks of online learning.
The Credible Alternative – GED
Well, that alternative is fortunately already available, and it has helped hundreds of thousands of Americans get ahead in life over the past eight decades: the GED®.
GED stands for General Educational Development. It is a group of four separate, computer-based, standardized sub-exams that measure a student’s proficiency in language arts, mathematics, social studies, and science.
Students that attain passing scores on the four modules have demonstrated to command academic skills and knowledge at the level of graduating high school seniors.
The passing standards of the four GED modules are set at such a high level that some 40 percent of all high school grads would not be able to pass the exam on their first try.
There are three GED passing score ranges, and students that reach results in the highest two ranges have demonstrated college readiness, and scores in the highest range will even result in up to 10 college credits.
Eliminate Age Restrictions?
The GED exam is designed by GED Testing Service, a collaboration of the American Council on Education (ACE) and publisher PearsonVUE. In most states, test-takers need to be at least 16 years of age.
For 16 and 17-year-old test-takers, however, strict additional requirements apply, and there are states where the minimum age is even higher. This is possible because the GED is a state-specific assessment, and states issue the GED diploma to successful applicants.
There are many education professionals who think that this needs to change and that anyone age 16 and over should be allowed to sit for the GED exam, and quite a few go even further and want the exam open to ANY student. And this makes a lot of sense!
First, high-achieving and gifted students will be able to verify their skills and proficiency in key educational subject fields, and it gives them the opportunity to enroll in college earlier. This way, they will be more challenged to reach their full potential and not get bored in school.
Second, the GED exam gives students that, for some reason, struggle at their schools a chance to demonstrate their skills and academic proficiency at the high school graduation level, so they can successfully exit the high school system and get into the workforce or enroll in credit-bearing college courses.
The fact of the matter is that the Omicron variants continue to threaten in-class and in-person instruction, so our state legislatures should really make it a top priority to remove each and every barrier to taking the GED exam so students can get ahead in career and education.
There are educational professionals who argue that there shouldn’t be any age restriction at all to taking the GED test without any limitations whatsoever. They say that states should deem that all students that score high enough on the four GED exams have met their state’s graduation requirements, so they are ready to leave high school.
Enacting this solution comes at hardly any cost, and it will have little effect on the financial situations of our school districts if any at all. The bill to get this option going would likely be just one page or less, and there will probably be sufficient bipartisan support for this proposal.
Those who oppose this proposal will probably come up with the argument that a GED diploma is simply not as good as a conventional high school diploma. They will say that a GED is, and should stay, a sort of last resort.
Some arguments include that GED holders often have inferior employment and that their income is less than those who completed their high school diplomas.
But the fact is that further academic education and employment options, and job advancement opportunities, are already hard to achieve for students who quit high school prematurely, emancipated minors, married teens, or incarcerated juveniles. Many of the stigmas associated with GED are exactly because of the barriers these students face to obtaining one.
In earlier days, the GED was often referred to as the “Good Enough Diploma,” but those days are gone. The current GED test is aligned with the Common Core Education Standards and reflects what employers expect and colleges demand.
The GED exam is fully computerized, and in our contemporary education and workforce settings, that only makes sense because today, there’s hardly any position, also not at the entry level, that doesn’t require applicants to command at least some keyboarding and computer skills.
A GED Expands Opportunities
In conclusion, we can say that the GED program does not limit opportunities. It rather expands them! If we release students who meet high school graduation standards earlier and do not require them to attend high school for the full 4-year period, we will expand their educational and professional horizons!
If the GED test is open to anyone and also highly talented students will start exercising this option, we’ll see that the stigmas still associated with the GED diploma will disappear very soon. What also helps is that the GED test is available in English and Spanish, so even more people may benefit.
Particularly for brilliant students, there are very good reasons to take the GED exam. It gives them the opportunity to skip high school and attend junior college, community college, or university. So they can enroll in a 4-year university program while their counterparts are actually entering their 11th grade!
This is really one of the great advantages of letting go entirely of age requirements for GED testing, though students shouldn’t take it too lightly and be aware that their grades in their first years of university or college are extremely important.
In the latest Spider-Man movie, the hero Peter Parker quit high school prematurely to devote his time fully to his role as Spider-Man, and there’s also a scene where a GED study guide is shown.
Now that’s a clear message: apparently, holding a GED diploma is good enough for our world-saving hero. So why wouldn’t it be good enough for all of us?
Over the past years, many American high school students have been seriously disadvantaged by the barriers caused not only by the Covid pandemic but also by existing policies.
These students, both the highly talented and the disadvantaged, deserve a necessary break, and securing a GED is the break they really need.
This article is based on insights provided in RealClearPolicy by Eric Fruits, an adjunct professor of Economics at Portland State University and Chief Economist at the International Center for Law and Economics, on February 16, 2022. He is also Vice President of Research at Cascade Policy Institute in Portland, Oregon.