Changes in Michigan’s High School Equivalency Testing Landscape

Written by: David Casalaspi

Primary Source: Green & Write, April 7, 2016

Changes are coming to Michigan’s high school equivalency landscape. Last week, Governor Snyder signed a law removing references to the GED[1] in state law and replacing them with the phrase “high school equivalency test and certification.” Previously, only a GED was recognized by the state as being equal to a high school diploma, but in future years, an array of tests may count.

Clip art courtesy of Pixabay.

The new policy comes on the heels of a number of changes the GED has made over the past two years, which some people feel eroded its popularity. In 2014, amid concern that the GED had become too easy, the test was made more challenging to ensure that recipients were in fact on par with students earning a high school diploma. But GED Testing Services might have strayed a bit too far. Between 2013 (the last year of the old test) and 2014 (the first year of the new test), the number of GEDs awarded nationwide plummeted by 83%. In Michigan, the number of GEDs awarded fell from 13,651 to just 1,472. In the wake of this, policymakers in many states began considering alternatives to the GED.

To correct this, the GED was once again made easier this past January, with the cut score being lowered from 150 points to 145. People who had scored between 145 and 149 in the two years between 2014 and 2016 were also retroactively awarded their credential. GED Testing Services claimed that the change was made after analysis found that people who earned the new GED were performing better in college than people who earned a high school diploma. GED recipients were less likely to require remedial courses than those with a high school diploma.

Coming Decision

Michigan’s decision opens the door for other high school equivalency test providers to enter into the market. While many states still administer the GED, eighteen states use the High School Equivalency Test and twelve use the Test Assessing Secondary Completion. Those tests could potentially now be used in Michigan. In the coming months, policymakers must determine which tests meet the state’s educational standards, and it will be important to identify options that will ensure pass rates are high enough to serve the state’s workforce needs while also maintaining appropriate value as credentials.

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[1] GED is an abbreviation for “General Education Development”, although colloquially, GED is often said to stand for “General Equivalency Diploma”.

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David Casalaspi
David Casalaspi is a third-year student in the Educational Policy Ph.D. Program. Before beginning his graduate studies, he attended the University of Virginia, where he received his B.A. in History and spent his senior year completing a thesis on the rise of federal accountability policy between 1989 and 2002. Additionally, while at UVA, David designed and taught a two-credit seminar for undergraduates on the political history of the American education system and also received some practical experience with policymaking through work with the City Council of Charlottesville, VA. His current research focuses on the politics and history of education, and particularly the way that education rhetoric and issue framing efforts affect the implementation of school reforms.