College & Workforce Readiness

Scoring Backlogs, Paperwork Problems Accompany New GED

By Marianne D. Hurst — May 01, 2002 5 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Revisions to the General Educational Development certificate that took effect earlier this year have caused headaches for testing officials from several states as they struggle to implement the changes to the high school equivalency program.

The new test, which states starting using in January, has caused scoring backlogs in California, paperwork problems and scoring difficulties in New York state, and an overhaul in training for test examiners in Texas.

“Any time you come out with a new test, you will have challenges,” said Joan C. Auchter, the executive director of the GED Testing Service at the American Council of Education, the Washington-based nonprofit organization that administers the test. “It’s a learning curve for [state officials].”

“The first four months are going to be a major transition,” she added. “But once they get it all ironed out, [the problems] will go away.”

Still, Ms. Auchter said only a few states have experienced difficulties and that many have raved about how easy the transition to the new test has been.

Some of the troubles stem from a new scoring system. Much of the new test is scored electronically. Only six states— Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Texas, and New York—used such a scoring system before 2001.

One challenge that many states faced even before changes to the GED took effect in January was trying to cope with the large number of students who rushed to take the old exam, which was perceived to be easier, before the Dec. 31 deadline.

Nancy Edmunds, an associate analyst in the California Department of Education’s GED office, said that more than 30,000 people took the test in November and December alone. Normally, about 60,000 Californians take the test each year.

Scoring such a high number of tests in a relatively short period of time has proved challenging in places such as New York. Some 73,000 people took the GED in New York state last year—8,000 of them in December. Some testing centers in the state reported staying open until midnight on Dec. 31 to accommodate the demand.

Bubble Trouble

More than 750,000 people in the United States, Canada, and U.S. territories take the GED test each year, according to the testing service. Today, about one of every seven Americans earns his or her high school credential through the GED program.

GED officials decided to revamp the test this year to make it more rigorous and to make it more accurately reflect equivalency with a high school graduate’s skills in an era of high-stakes testing and standards-based education. (“The GED: New Tests, New Challenges,” Jan. 23, 2002.)

The alterations to the 7½ hours of testing in writing, reading, social studies, science, and mathematics stress analytical ability and problem-solving skills, testing officials say. The changes represent the first adjustments made to the GED since 1988.

In California, from 4,000 to 5,000 students have taken the new exam since state testing centers opened on Jan. 15. But Ms. Edmunds said that the state was unable to score those tests until February because it hadn’t yet received the answer keys from national GED officials.

But Ms. Auchter said that GED officials sent the answer key to California officials on Jan. 21. “At most, we could have delayed their scoring by a week,” she said.

The tardy test results also have caused difficulties for GED test-takers trying to meet application deadlines for college admissions or financial aid, Ms. Edmunds said.

California testing officials have been able to provide some students, whose tests have been scored but who haven’t yet received their official notifications of passing, with documentation stating that they have passed the exam, Ms. Edmunds said.

“Our biggest problem,” she said, “was that we had deadline events that all happened at once.”

The state had to retrain and prepare testing administrators in less than two weeks, as well as provide the state’s 200-plus testing sites with access to secure Internet portals so they could issue scores, Ms Edmunds said.

In New York state, testing officials say the new tests have brought extra paperwork.

Patricia Mooney, the New York state’s chief examiner, said that each test-taker must fill out eight pages of demographic information. “It’s a lot tougher,” she said, “because it’s harder to keep proper documentation all in one file.”

Testing officials in New York also say they have noticed an increase in scoring errors. To date, more than 3,500 students have taken the new GED in New York. The state is facing a backlog in scoring 1,500 of those tests in part because the new format has increased scanning errors, Ms. Mooney said.

She said that stray marks or poorly erased answers on the scorecard can be misread, causing the scanners to reject the cards. “And ACE has refused to give us any hand-scoring materials, which would be helpful,” she said.

Ms. Auchter acknowledged that the GED Testing Service no longer provides hand-scoring keys. The testing service also pared the number of scoring sites from more than 3,200 to 16.

“It was a security decision,” Ms. Auchter said. “Now if a test is compromised, there are only 16 places where they could have happened. Anytime there are multiple versions of the key, you multiply the chances for it to get lost or misplaced.”

As in California, New York officials also say they have faced a delay in receiving answer keys. But Ms. Mooney said a bigger problem has been the state’s post-Sept. 11 budget crunch. Funding cuts have caused shortages in staff and limited the testing officials’ ability to process scores.

By contrast, Texas, which tested more than 100,000 students in 2001, waited and did not start offering the new test until February. State testing officials used that extra time to ensure its testing administrators received training in how to give the new exams.

In addition, said G. Paris-Ealy, the director of the Texas Education Agency’s GED unit, the state has used an electronic scoring system for several years, so it had already worked out some of the kinks that other states are now experiencing.

Texas GED officials have experienced “small technical problems because of the new forms and instructions.” Ms. Paris-Ealy said.

“Sometimes,” she said, “it slows [the testing] down.”

A version of this article appeared in the May 01, 2002 edition of Education Week as Scoring Backlogs, Paperwork Problems Accompany New GED

Commenting has been disabled on effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
What’s Next for Teaching and Learning? Key Trends for the New School Year
The past 18 months changed the face of education forever, leaving teachers, students, and families to adapt to unprecedented challenges in teaching and learning. As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

College & Workforce Readiness Opinion What Will It Take to Get High School Students Back on Track?
Three proven strategies can support high school graduation and postsecondary success—during and after the pandemic.
Robert Balfanz
5 min read
Conceptual illustration of students making choices based on guidance.
Viktoria Kurpas/iStock
College & Workforce Readiness Opinion An Economist Explains How to Make College Pay
Rick Hess speaks with Beth Akers about practical advice regarding how to choose a college, what to study, and how to pay for it.
6 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
College & Workforce Readiness What the Research Says College Enrollment Dip Hits Students of Color the Hardest
The pandemic led to a precipitous decline in enrollment for two-year schools, while four-year colleges and universities held steady.
3 min read
Conceptual image of blocks moving forward, and one moving backward.
College & Workforce Readiness Letter to the Editor How We Can Improve College-Completion Rates
Early- and middle-college high schools have the potential to improve college completion rates, says this letter to the editor.
1 min read