TRENTON — Despite approving a revised version of the high school equivalency exam in early December, state officials have yet to authorize the state’s 31 test centers to give the test, stranding thousands of residents who want to get their high school diploma.
The exam, known universally as the GED, was revamped for this year, the first time since 2002. The changes made the test harder and aligned it with current curriculum standards.
State officials had three years to plan for the transition to the new GED, which introduces an online version. Previously, the two-day test was given only with pencil and paper.
But six weeks after the new test became available, not one New Jersey resident has taken it, officials at various test centers confirmed to The Star-Ledger of Newark.
“We’re waiting. We’ve done everything on our part to be ready,” said Irene Schrader, manager of the Continuing Education Department of the Morris County Vocational School District. “We are waiting to get approval.”
State officials say the delay was caused by a mistake in the memo of understanding, the legal agreement between the state and the test centers. The document was sent out in December after the State Board of Education’s approval of three test vendors.
The document referred to a nonexistent appendix, Department of Education spokesman Michael Yaple said. Officials worried the error was enough to undermine the integrity of the agreement and could leave the state open to lawsuits.
So officials decided to correct the agreements and resend them to the test centers to be signed.
“It wasn’t the popular decision, but it was the responsible one,” Yaple said.
Meanwhile, the delay has affected thousands of New Jersey residents, test center officials say.
More than 17,000 people took the high school equivalency exam in New Jersey last year, or an average of 327 tests a week.
“(We) take pride in helping people move forward in a positive direction. Having a high school diploma is crucial,” Schrader said.
After years of discussion, state officials approved the Pearson VUE, McGraw Hill and ETS test versions at a meeting Dec. 4. Pearson VUE, which purchased the rights to GED in 2011 and announced it would revamp it, must be taken online. McGraw Hill and ETS offer both online and pencil-and-paper formats.
Test centers have been in waiting mode for weeks.
“It caught all of us off guard,” Ocean County College’s chief examiner, Carol Cappetta, said about the delay. “I was very excited about the new test. It’s so needed.”
But instead of giving tests, the test centers have spent the past six weeks apologizing.
“All of us are frustrated, and the test-takers are frustrated,” Schrader said.
Yaple said state officials expect eight or 10 of the 31 agreements could be signed by Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf this week, with an additional 20 or so next week. Upon his signature, the test centers would be allowed to proceed.
An Associated Press Member Exchange report