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Kentucky's GED Graduations Trending Down

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Kentucky is not on pace to meet its GED graduation goal, according to the latest annual accountability report released by the Council on Postsecondary Education.

During the 2009-2010 year, Kentucky had more than 10,000 GED graduates. At that time, the CPE set what its Executive Vice President Aaron Thompson calls an ambitious goal for the high school diploma equivalency program—by 2013-2014 year there would be 11,500 GED graduates.

But there’s been a steady decline since then. The latest data shows around 7,000 Kentuckians earned their GED during the 2013-2014 year.

At the same time, the state’s graduation rate has improved—and fewer working-age adults in Kentucky lack a high school diploma or GED. The CPE data shows from 2000 to 2010 a 24 percent decline in the number of working-age adults without a high school diploma or GED. The improved statistics have had a ripple effect on the GED.

“Many of the students that we are seeing that are coming into GED now are students that are reading at a much lower level and they’re harder to get through,” said Thompson.

Also, the GED Testing Service updated the exam in 2014 for the first time in over a decade to align its standards with the country’s workforce needs. This made the test more challenging.

A change in the test usually means an adjustment period for test takers, and ultimately, fewer people passing, said Reecie Stagnolia, the vice president for Kentucky’s adult education department.

“Those who are left are our most educationally challenged, who have a number of barriers,” he said.

Kentucky’s  GED pass rate is around 80 percent, which is above the national average.

Beginning January of this year, the cost of taking the GED doubled to nearly $120, but Stagnolia said he doesn’t think that’s attributing to the decline in GED graduates because the state has strong partnerships and receives grant funding to help cut down the cost of taking the test.

Many test-takers only have to pay around $40 to complete each of the four modules that make up the GED. In Kentucky, test-takers must first complete a practice exam before attempting the final test.