Common Core, the GED, and economic inequality

I have been reading Joy Pullmann’s book, The Education Invasion: How Common Core Fights Parents for Control of American Kids.

Like most homeschoolers, I have been a strong critic of Common Core standards, which I believe are totally nonsensical and work against children learning basic skills. This has come to be something of a non-controversial perspective, however, as years of material declines in academic performance since Common Core standards were broadly adopted now provide extensive data to back critics up. Common Core is objectively a great way to produce functionally illiterate and innumerate kids.

Yet Pullmann brings up something that I find deeply, deeply disturbing: GED tests are now aligned with Common Core standards. Apparently, no one looked at that idea and said, “hey, this might help perpetuate economic inequality.”

The GED is a high school equivalency test that people take when they did not complete high school for some reason or another.

GED tests are now administered by Pearson, which switched the questions to a Common Core format over the course of several years. This means that you can know the correct answer to a math problem, for example, but if you are not well-versed in the down-the-rabbit-hole way questions are posed in Common Core-speak or the way answers are justified (which of these answers is “close enough” to the correct answer?), then you are going to flunk the test.

So if you are a person who wanted to improve your situation in life by getting a GED a decade after dropping out of school, you would be screwed even if you could legitimately do the work. Like everything Bill Gates touches, the Common Core standards he used his billions to push were helping keep poor people poor.

I am sure Pearson pushed for this transition because it would mean that poor people would be forced to do a Pearson GED prep course to be coached on how to answer the questions. That’s how Pearson’s bread is buttered, after all.

In the process of doing my own “fact-checking” of what Pullmann had written, I learned that the GED Testing Service responded to large numbers of people predictably flunking the “new” GED the same way public school educators responded to kids not taking well to Common Core. They lowered what counts as a passing grade on the GED. Because you can’t go back and fix a broken education system where so many consultants, publishers, and other middle men are getting filthy rich breaking kids’ brains. Just start stamping the papers and make the entire process meaningless.

What makes this even more messed up is there has been a movement for states to pick up the costs of taking the GED. So a government-subsidized nonprofit contracts with Pearson to administer the test; Pearson makes it unnecessarily complicated for people who were educated during a more sane era; they start rubber-stamping test results because people are failing en masse; and the government starts paying for people to take the test. It’s a great big circle where taxpayers get to pay twice for someone to sit for a test to prove they can do high school-level work.

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