The State Board of Education of Washington, D.C. approved a resolution allowing citizens who pass the General Education Development exam to receive a high school diploma, on Nov. 18.
The resolution calls for the Office of the State Superintendent of Education to write regulations implementing this new rule, which would then return to the Board of Education for a final vote next year.
The GED exam was established in 1942 to grant a credential equivalent to a high school diploma to citizens who dropped out of high school as a way to compensate for potential lost job opportunities. It is updated every 10 to 15 years and was last modified in 2014.
Board of Education member Laura Phelan was pleased with the resolution but said that in educational matters in general, the Board should proceed with caution.
“There is a danger we are passing things because we feel political pressure to do so, not because there is evidence,” Phelan said to the Washington Post. “I do worry a lot about this board acting as a rubber stamp for things that other bodies feel is a priority.”
D.C. Councilmember and Chair of the Council’s Committee on Education David Grosso (I-At Large) praised the measure as a necessary step in providing equal job opportunities to residents who are unable to complete high school.
“I think it makes sense that we are allowing a high school diploma to be given to somebody who has got the GED,” Grosso said. “We were excited to see this ruling be put forth.”
Grosso noted that there is currently a stigma associated with the GED and dropping out of high school, with employers less likely to hire individuals who do not have a diploma.
“I think that people who qualify to have a GED moving forward will be in a better position to get jobs,” Grosso said. “You will be able to say and show that you have a diploma [which] provides a little more gravitas.”
Director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce Anthony Carnevale expressed support for the new regulation, noting that it could accelerate changes in perceptions of the GED among potential employers.
“The GED has always been the illegitimate child at the family reunion and the education community has always regarded it as second rate,” Carnevale said. “That’s not the case and [now] it’s been brought into the family.”
Carnevale pointed to modifications made to the latest iteration of the GED exam, which is backed by Pearson Education and the American Council on Education. These changes, according to Carnevale, could potentially make it more difficult to pass the GED than to receive a high school diploma.
“Truth be told, people who get the GED tend to have to go through more hoops than people who slide through high school,” Carnevale said. “We know, at least with the new GED, that in many cases it’s better than a high school degree.”
Grosso similarly noted that with its new method of administration and new contents, the GED is possibly just as competitive as a high school diploma.
“The GED exam now, it’s different than it has been in the past,” Grosso said. “When somebody actually takes the exam, they are college and career ready.”
Carnevale said that there could still be some resistance to the idea that passing the GED exam is potentially equivalent to receiving a high school diploma. However, he expressed the belief that those perceptions would fade with time as a result of this legislation.
“Some employers are opposed to this because they view the GED as a signal, that is, it tells them that this person didn’t complete high school,” Carnevale said. “But I think that’s unfair, I think it always has been unfair.”
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