It has been said that the legislative process is much like sausage making--you really don't want to know all that much about the process . . .
Yesterday I watched and participated in a small but meaningful part of government in action--an extension of the legislative process. The arena was the State Board of Education (SBOE) committee hearing testimony about potential changes to the way that Texas awards the certificate of high school completion. More than 3.5 million adults lack a high school diploma in Texas. Currently, the only route to a certificate of high school completion is through the GED.
When the GED was radically revised in January 2014, the passing rate in Texas plunged by almost 90%. The new test raised obstacles at every turn by:
- significantly increasing cost, plus requiring payment online with credit or debit card
- removing paper/pencil format (despite the fact that more than half of the population without a high school diploma and in poverty have no computer or internet access)
- requiring not only computer skills, but ability to type about 25 words per minute
- gearing the test to college prep even though the vast majority of test takers are not seeking further education but improved employment opportunities
How would you do on this sample question from the current GED test?
At the conclusion of testimony late in the afternoon, the Chair noted that never before had she seen all those who signed up, actually show up and testify. It was moving. Thirty registered to speak; others accompanied them. Only one person spoke in favor of leaving things the way they are--with the GED as the only option. All the rest spoke for adding at least one option:
Reasons mainly focused on the higher cost of GED (twice that of HiSET and TASC) and the requirement of completing the test online vs. by paper and pencil.
A half dozen current or former GED students testified. They talked about motivation to complete their high school certificate. They described their struggles using a computer to document what they had learned. They shared about the difficulties of finding money to pay for the test. Their teachers testified, too. (Alan Dodd, Fort Worth, pictured here.) And program administrators. It was moving.
Today the SBOE will consider testimony and decide how to proceed. That's where you come in, gentle reader. Please click the link below and send a message to your regional representative on the SBOE. The current contract with Pearson GED expires next year; I urge you to request that a contract be awarded to at least two providers (HiSET and/or TASC).
This is a way to advocate for the tens of thousands in Texas stopped in their tracks by the burdensome requirements of the current GED and for the millions who follow on their heels.
State Board of Education Membership Roster
Chandra Villanueva of the Center for Public Policy Priorities challenged the board to consider ways to go farther. She shared CPPP recommendations (also found on their website):
- Make all three high school equivalency exams available in order to provide choice and affordability to adult education service centers and test-takers.
- Take steps to educate employers and post-secondary education professionals about the Texas Certificates of High School Equivalency to ensure they know that the value of the certificate does not change even if the exams used to issue it do;
- Offer subsidies or vouchers especially for first time test-takers to increase affordability and to incentivize more people to take the tests; and
- Develop a comprehensive strategy to address the unacceptably large number of Texas adults without a high school diploma or equivalency.
Last note: A special thanks to Kathryn Thompson, Executive Director of the Tarrant Literacy Coalition, for leading the charge! She was the only voice for calling for change in the April meeting of the SBOE. Yesterday's hearing happened because one person spoke up. Exercise your right to free speech. Join Kathryn and send a message to your SBOE representative this morning.
Coming Soon . . .
The Quixotic Days and Errant Nights of the Knight Errant Don Quixote
by Brenda Withers, a world premiere
Enjoy the production on the following dates and a portion of your ticket cost will be donated to the work of:Tarrant Literacy Coalition
on July 24, 2015, 8:00 pmLiteracy Connexus
on August 1, 2015, 8:00 pm
Withers's writing is "absolutely delightful... sharp and clever." - The New York Times
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