On February 10, 2016, the Washington State House passed House Bill 2743 - a bill that its prime sponsor, Chris Reykdal, claimed would "help GED students." We normally do not single out a single legislator for criticism. But this case, the bill is so offensive and the harm to GED students is so great that we are going to make an exception.
Chris Reykdal works for the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges (hereafter SBCTC). The SBCTC is supposed to help students who attend these local colleges. Instead, the SBCTC is a reckless, out of control agency that has been responsible for enacting a series of extremely harmful changes that have destroyed the lives of tens of thousands of students. The most harmful of these changes has been granting a monopoly on the Washington State High School Equivalency Certificate to an international for profit mega-corporation called Pearson. In January 2014, Pearson replaced the traditional GED test with a test that is so difficult that not only is it impossible to most GED students to pass the Pearson GED test - it is impossible for most of the members of our state legislature to pass the Pearson GED test.
In March 2014, we became aware of this disaster and started Restore GED Fairness dot org to try to restore a fair GED test in Washington State and around the nation. Because of the unfair Pearson GED test, in 2014, the number of students passing the GED test in Washington state fell from over 13,000 students per year to less than 3,000 students per year.
In January 2015, we worked to introduce a bill for a Fair GED test in the Washington state legislature. Our bill passed the Washington State Senate Higher Education by a unanimous vote. But our GED Fairness bill was blocked in the House Higher Education Committee by none other than Chris Reykdal and the SBCTC!
As a consequence of this despicable disregard for the well being of stuggling low income students, another 10,000 Washington state students were denied a GED certificate in 2015. Reykdal and the SBCTC claimed that the number of students passing the GED would rise over time as more students got used to the new test. But instead of publishing the number of students passing the test every month, the SBCTC and Pearson have stonewalled all efforts to determine the number of students passing the GED test in Washington state. We have therefore been forced to use the pass rate from neighboring states, such as Oregon, who also have granted Pearson a monopoly over their high school equivalency test program.
In January, Pearson reacted to the news that 23 states have now moved away from the Pearson GED test monopoly by lowering the cut score from 150 to 145. Most of these states have allowed students to use a fairer fairer high school equivalency test called the Iowa HiSET test.
Pearson claimed that lowering the cut score would increase the number of students who passed the test by 50 percent. What they failed to say is that a 50% increase of an unacceptably low number is still an unacceptably low number. New information from Oregon indicates that Pearson's recent lowering of the cut score to pass the GED test from 150 to 145 did not lead to a substantial increase in the number of students receiving a GED certificate. Had Oregon state continued to use a fairly normed GED test, about 9,500 students would have received a GED certificate in 2014 and 2015. Lowering the cut score from 150 to 145 only resulted in 260 more students per year retroactively receiving a GED certificate in 2014 and 2015 in Oregon. The total number of students who received a GED certificate in 2015, even with the lower cut score was only 3,000 students - 6,500 less than would have received a GED if Oregon had a fair GED test.
In Washington state, about 10,000 low income students per year are prevented from getting a high school equivalency certificate by the unfair Pearson GED test. Nationally, about 500,000 low income students per year have their lives destroyed by the Pearson GED test. About 10% of these students, lacking the ability to get a job, commit major crimes and wind up in prison - at a cost to taxpayers nationally of over one hundred million dollars per year.
The reason for making the GED test so hard that very few people can pass it is an unfair set of learning standards called Common Core and the associated Common Core test called the SBAC test - another test that very few kids or state legislators could pass. Not surprisingly., Chris Reykdal is also the prime sponsor of House Bill 2214, a bill that would require the impossible to pass SBAC Common Core test in order to graduate from high school.
The marketing slogan for Common Core and the SBAC test is that they will get kids career and college ready. But it is a fact that no bubble test has ever gotten a single student career and college ready. If Reykdal really wanted to get our kids career and college ready, he would propose a bill to raise $4 to $6 billion per year in new revenue so we could lower class sizes so that stuggling students could get the help they need to succeed in school and succeed in life.
Here are the results after 3 to 5 years of Common Core in New York, Kentucky and Washington state using the National Assessment of Educational Progress 8th Grade Math test:
Note that the scores of students on the 8th grade math test went down in all three states. This is because Chris Reykdal's Common Core and SBAC Plan is an utter disaster. It is time to end the disastrous experiment with Common Core in our schools and with the common aligned Pearson GED test!
Which brings us back to Chris Reykdal and his shameful 2016 House Bill 2743. Instead of providing struggling low income students with what they really need - which is a fair GED test so that they could get a job or go to college, Reykdal's bill would bill would eliminate the stigma of having a GED certificate by turning it into a normal high school diploma.
Let's be clear about this. There is no stigma from having a GED certificate! Nearly all employees and colleges accept a GED certificate as being the same as a high school diploma. The real stigma is inflicted on those who don't have a GED certificate and cannot get a GED certificate because they cannot pass the unfair Pearson Common Core GED test and because Chris Reykdal refused to let these tens of thousands of Washington state students take a fair GED test. Shame on Chris Reykdal and shame on the Washington state legislature for going along with his Pearson GED Monopoly scam.
Reykdal had the audacity to claim that his bill would help increase the wages of those who have a GED certificate. But what would really increase the wages of struggling low income students is getting a GED certificate in the first place! Here are quotes from a GED instructor and a GED student to help bring a dose of reality to Reykdal and his insane bill:
“The students I work with, for the most part, want to get a job at Home Depot and Walmart. Hopefully they will (achieve higher aspirations) when they get their lives back on track. But right now, most of them just want a job.There needs to be a fairness where we don’t expect so much more of a GED student. The vast majority of high school graduates would never, ever come close to passing the (unfair Pearson) GED test.” John Grosvenor Portland Community College GED Instructor
“The math is ridiculous. There is no way that that test is normed to high school. It’s worded in such a complicated high-level thinking that you spend a huge chunk of time reading and rereading the question just to figure out what the equation should be.” Oregon GED Student
Nor should we be imposing rigid and unrealistic college standards on struggling low income students who are just to get a job at Walmart. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupation Outlook Handbook, very few new jobs in the next 10 years will even require a college degree.
An unfair GED test keeps low income students out of even these basic jobs because they cannot get these entry level jobs because they cannot pass the unfair Pearson GED test. By the end of 2016, more than 30,000 low income students in Washington state will have been denied access to a fair GED test by Reykdal and his cronies in Olympia. About 3,000 of these struggling low income students will wind up committing major crimes and being sent to prison. But the real crime will have been committed by Reykdal, the State legislature and the SBCTC.
The only good news here is that 2016 is an election year. It is time to boot Reykdal and all of his ruthless cronies out of Olympia and replace them with people who will allow struggling low income students to have a fair chance to pass a fair high school equivalency test so they can get the jobs they need to stay out of prison and pay for their rent. As always, we look forward to your questions and comments.
David Spring M. Ed. & Elizabeth Hanson M. Ed.
Restore GED Fairness dot org