Published Online: April 23, 1997

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People trying to get General Educational Development credentials face tougher minimum standards for passing the GED test battery this year than their counterparts did in the past.

Now, those seeking the high-school-equivalency diploma have to score a 40 on the 20-to-80-point scale on each of five subtests as well as achieve a score of 45 across the subtests. Previously, test-takers could score below 40 on one or more subtests and still qualify for a GED diploma if they earned a 45 average. The subtests on the nearly eight-hour exam are in math, interpreting literature and the arts, science, social studies, and writing.

A program of the Washington-based American Council on Education, the GED measures academic skills and knowledge that educators expect students to gain from a traditional high school curriculum. Officials at the higher education group estimate that the pass rate will drop from about 75 percent to about 66 percent with the new standards.

Janet Baldwin, the director of research at the GED Testing Service, said that the changes to the test battery were in line with the national effort to raise standards for high school students. Over the years, she said that test-takers have tended to perform lower on the math and writing-skills teststhe very areas becoming more important in today's society for employment and for further education.

She said such a change was necessary to maintain the credibility of the GED credential.

As of this year, all states and the District of Columbia plan to meet or exceed the new criteria. New Jersey and Wisconsin demand students meet a somewhat higher standard before they can earn a GED.

In 1995, about 724,000 people completed the test; more than 523,000 earned the credential, an ACE spokesman said.

A University of Kentucky report concludes that Kentucky's student assessment, which has been criticized, is as reliable as the nationally used and long-established ACT college-entrance exam or the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills.

Testing expert Edward Kifer studied the 1995-96 Kentucky Instructional Results Information System and compared its error in measurement with the other tests'. For grades 4 and 8, the reliability across all the content areas was virtually the same for KIRIS and the CTBS--hovering around 0.95 out of a perfect 1.0.

The same was true for the total composite KIRIS test for 11th grade compared with the basic-skills test and the ACT. KIRIS' reliability also held up across its individual subject tests, Mr. Kifer found in the new report.

--MILLICENT LAWTON mlawton@epe.org

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