Sunday, January 11, 2015

US Middle and High School Dropouts are Fuuuuuucked.

Over the past year, the United States has seen an increase in employment, and the economy is finally beginning to recover a bit after a long recession.  So the good suits over at Pearson, the for-profit company (the largest education company in the world, worth billions of GBP and headquartered in London) that is responsible for writing and producing the GED diploma, was like, “Wait, what?  People are getting jobs?  And learning?  And being able to support themselves?  Before you know it, they'll be wanting a voice and power!  Well, we'll just see about that." 
   
The new GED test was implemented at the beginning of 2014 to reflect the Common Core national educational standards for public schools that most states adopted quickly (but which some are beginning to drop).  Ostensibly, the reason for the changes in the content of the test is to prepare GED test takers to enter a four year-university, which is one of the primary goals of the Common Core.  Changes to the test included:
  • More of a focus on critical thinking and analytical skills, such as close reading, essay writing, and advanced algebra;
  • The test is now only available online;
  • Test samples now cost $6 per sample and require a credit card to purchase;
  • The cost of the test itself has tripled, from $40 to $120.

The reason this has been in the news recently is because passing rates from 2014 have just been released; in 2013, the last year that the old test was implemented, 540,000 test-takers passed.  In 2014, only 55,000 passed.  That is a decrease of 90%.  Ninety percent!  Imagine if your local DMV suddenly changed the written test to get a driver’s license, and suddenly 90% of people were failing. We would find that problematic, no?

Who does this affect?
  • Anyone who’s just trying to get a high school diploma equivalent in order to get a job and doesn’t plan on entering a college or university;
  • Anyone who doesn’t have a computer;
  • Anyone who doesn’t have a hundred and twenty fucking dollars to fork over to a wealthy company which is profiting off of making the test more difficult;
  • Anyone who doesn’t have a credit card;
  • Anyone who didn’t grow up with computers and doesn’t have computer skills;
  • Inmates, many of whom need to pass the GED in order to get a job upon being released from prison

Basically, anyone who's already screwed from the start.

In addition to all of this, most adult education is taught by volunteers who might not have the skills or knowledge to teach the new material.  Luckily, there are other testing companies that have developed alternative equivalency tests, which some states are beginning to accept.  Being able to pass this test has real-life implications for hundreds of thousands of people; passing the GED and being a better job candidate because of it can mean being able to financially support a family, get health benefits, and work on paying off debt.  It contributes to agency, self-actualization, and survival.  This shit is important. Read about it more here.

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