The number of Kentuckians earning their GEDs plummeted 77 percent between 2014 and 2015 – that’s according to a new report by the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy. A variety of factors appear responsible for the sharp decline.
About 13 percent of eligible Kentuckians lack a high school diploma or the equivalent General Education Development certificate, and while that population is shrinking thanks in part to graduation rate gains, the new findings suggest the most recent round of changes to the exam played a role.
Ashley Spalding, a research associate with the center and author of the report, says dips in participation have accompanied past updates, but the 2014 changes aimed at bringing the test in line with current college and career-readiness standards packed a punch.
"There is a bigger decline with this new test. This has been a real shift and a lot of states are struggling to adapt," she tells WUKY. "In our state, we see that it's been difficult."
Among the culprits: a more rigorous test, which includes new short answer sections, along with the shift to a computer-based system, and an underfunded Kentucky Adult Education agency. Spalding says the additional $3.5 million being requested by the latter could go a long way over the next two years.
"They could do more marketing, some very special professional development for instructors, some really important data collection and research," she says.
Kentucky Adult Education has absorbed a 26 percent cut in state funding since 2008. Even with bolstered funding, Spalding notes the challenge of appealing to groups that may shy away from testing because of health problems or age.
"What may be happening is that a lot of the people who are left... who do not have a high school diploma or a GED are more difficult to reach than those in the past," she says.
Costs also doubled from $60 to $120, though Kentuckians can currently access vouchers to mitigate the increase.