The American Council on Education and Pearson announced today that they will work as partners to redevelop and administer the General Education Development test, transitioning the service from a nonprofit program to a for-profit business.
The new GED Testing Service will be overseen by a board of directors that includes executives from both Pearson, an educational publishing company, and the council, which has been the sole provider of the GED test since the early 1940s.
The partnership comes after the council announced its GED 21st Century Initiative, which seeks to restructure the test to align it with a modern high-school curriculum and to develop stronger instructional programs. The new test will be released by 2014.
"If we are going to have any chance of achieving significant increases in the numbers of people who have access to the test as well as the number of people who pass the test, it's bigger than any single individual or organization can do by themselves," said Nicole M. Chestang, executive director of the GED Testing Service.
Critics have questioned whether a GED credential truly predicts a student's ability to succeed in college, and officials at the council say the new exam will better prepare test takers to move on to postsecondary course work.
Pearson first became involved with the testing service as a contractor while conducting a study about paper-based versus computer-based testing.
"As the world's largest education and testing company, it was quite clear to us that we could not sit on the sidelines," said Randy Trask, a senior vice president for Pearson, during a conference call with reporters on Monday.
Starting in April, the GED test will be administered by computer at some testing sites in Florida, California, Texas, and Georgia. All testing centers will move from paper-based to computer-based testing by 2013.
The council's president, Molly Corbett Broad, said the partnership will provide a "much-needed fresh start to attack what is really an old and pernicious problem."
The council and Pearson will concentrate their expertise and resources, she said, to expand access to the GED testing program and "to provide a driver that we hope will transform the nation's adult education system."
Nearly 40 million American adults don't have a high-school diploma or a GED, according to 2009 data from the council, and there are nearly 800,000 GED tests taken each year. The average cost for a student to take the exam is $75, Mr. Trask said, but that price varies across states—in the past, the council has leased the test to individual states, and each jurisdiction determines the cost to its test takers.
The council's gross revenue from the GED Testing Service was about $17.2-million last year, which includes the money that states pay to lease the exam, Ms. Chestang said. She couldn't say how the partnership with Pearson would affect the cost to states in the future.