(TNS) — The GED, the brand that for decades has been almost synonymous with a high school equivalency diploma, is no longer offered in Tennessee.
The "general educational development" test created and marketed by the American Council on Education on Friday gave way to the High School Equivalency Test [HiSET] for people wanting to obtain a high school equivalency diploma.
"GED kind of branded themselves as the credential when really it's just a test," said Lori Hairrell, former executive director of the Re:Start Center for Adult Education, which lost its contract for GED testing in 2013.
In recent years Tennessee students had a choice between the GED and the HiSET.
More than 300 students passed the GED test in the last year that Re:Start administered it, Hairrell said. And because the GED was online, students knew within a day if they had passed. It takes longer for the paper-and-pencil HiSET version.
But starting in 2014, a revamped GED test came into use that was much more difficult for students to pass.
The new test was focused on college readiness rather than workforce readiness, according to news reports. According to the GED Testing Service, passing rates dropped 90 percent compared to the previous year.
Suzanne Elston, director of adult education at Chattanooga State Community College, the about 380 to 400 people a year passed the original GED test for their high school equivalency diploma.
Then the GED changed and the HiSET was added for those who wanted to take a written test, she said. This year the number of students passing the test dropped by at least a third, Elston said.
"All of those new tests started about a year and a half ago and the graduation rate has dropped tremendously since that point," she said. "Frankly, it's dropped all over the country. It's not just a local phenomenon. It's dropped everywhere."
Students are dealing with a new test for which they are not prepared. Adult education programs have had to learn what to teach for the test. The test designers don't provide educators with a copy of the test to show what's on there, so teachers have to pull it together from published material and the practice test, Elston said.
The HiSET test is also a challenge for teachers because it has changed three times since its inception, she said.
Hairrell said HiSET was initially brought into adult education when GED went online-only and people in rural areas didn't have access to the internet.
State officials stopped administering the GED test in April, but gave students who had taken at least one module of the test until June 30 to complete it, according to the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
The HiSET exam is offered online and on paper, said Chris Cannon, labor department spokesman. The testing fee is $75, less expensive than the $120 required for the GED.
State officials selected HiSET as its only high school equivalency exam after a state restructuring that caused it to go from providing 40 district testing sites to eight.
Chattanooga State Community College, a main testing site before the restructuring, no longer will administer the test or offer preparation classes.
Instead the Tennessee College of Applied Technology in Athens will provide the services.
In Chattanooga, classes are available at the Tennessee American Job Center, the Salvation Army on East 28th St. and at the Hamilton County Jail, according to the Department of Labor.
The Northside Neighborhood House also said it will be a testing site.
The state anticipates at least five HiSET locations in Hamilton County by Aug. 1, said Cannon.
©2016 the Chattanooga Times/Free Press (Chattanooga, Tenn.), distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.