High school students need an alternative to the risks of online learning and a diminished value of a public school diploma. Fortunately, there is a successful alternative that’s been in place for nearly 80 years: the GED.
General Educational Development tests are a group of standardized exams on four subjects that measure proficiency in science, mathematics, social studies, and language arts. When passed, the GED provides certification that the test-taker meets high school graduation level academic skills. Higher scores demonstrate college readiness, and even higher scores can qualify students for college credit.
The GED Testing Service requires test-takers be 16 years of age or older. However, most states require that a person be 18 years or older to take the tests and some have even higher age limits. In some states, people as young as 16 can sit for the GED, but only in very limited circumstances, such as if they already dropped out of high school, are married or emancipated minors, or are in juvenile detention.
This needs to change: Anyone age 16 or older should be permitted to take the GED. On the one hand, high achieving students deserve the ability to verify their proficiency in key subjects so they can get on with college. On the other hand, struggling students deserve a clear path to demonstrate their academic proficiency, successfully exit the school system, and get on with their careers.
As the Omicron variant continues to threaten in-person instruction, state legislatures should make it a priority to remove all barriers to taking the GED. Specifically, states should remove any age barriers taking the GED—with no limitations. Going even further, states should deem that anyone who scores high enough shall have satisfied the state’s graduation requirements and can leave school.
Opponents to this proposal will likely make a nanny state argument that a GED is “not as good” as a traditional high school diploma and should be only a last resort.
Some argue that GED recipients have worse employment and income outcomes than those who graduate with a diploma. But employment and advancement opportunities are already limited for high school dropouts, married teens, emancipated minors and incarcerated juveniles. Indeed, much of the GED’s stigma is because of the legal barriers to obtaining one. The GED does not limit opportunities, but rather expands them, by releasing students who can meet high school standards out of the requirement of attending high school. If the GED is open to anyone and “successful” students start exercising that option, the stigma will disappear.
At the end of the latest Spider-Man movie, we learn the hero Peter Parker has left high school to launch his full-time career as Spider-Man. As he’s moving into his apartment, the camera pans across the scene showing a copy of a GED study guide sitting on his desk. The message is clear: If the GED is good enough for a world-saving superhero, it’s good enough for anyone. High school students across the country have been severely disadvantaged by policy and pandemic alike over the past two years. They deserve a break, and the GED is the break they need.
Eric Fruits is Vice President of Research at Cascade Policy Institute in Portland, Oregon. Originally published by RealClearPolicy. Republished with permission.