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Carolyn Kaster, ASSOCIATED PRESS
In this Oct. 22, 2013, photo, Kaylin Wainwright, center, works with student Natnael Gebremariam, left, at a computer during a General Educational Development test preparation class at the Sonia Gutierrez Campus of the Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School in Washington. Seated right is student Sibusiso Kunene. Americans who passed part, but not all, of the GED test are rushing to finish it before a new version rolls out in January. About 1 million Americans who took the high school equivalency exam could be affected. GED scores will be wiped out when the new version arrives. Test takers will have to use a computer instead of pencil and paper. And the cost will be significantly higher, at $120. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

GED pass rates are tumbling as a more rigorous online test settles in.

"The test is supposed to be one of the easiest examinations a person can take in the U.S.," Education News reported. "However, according to the most recent data from the GED Testing Service, there was a drop this year of almost 90 percent in the number of people who earned a GED across the country this year. In 2012, 401,388 people passed, and 540,000 passed in 2013. Only about 55,000 passed this year."

The numbers are similar throughout the country. In Georgia, as of Nov. 31, Online Athens reported, "5,340 people had completed the test and 2,270 had passed, a 51 percent pass rate. For the 2013 calendar year, 28,732 people completed the previous test and 22,178 passed, or about 77 percent."

There are a variety of explanations for the collapsing success rates.

The main issue, Scene reports, is "Who is the GED test for and what should it measure? Should it be geared toward determining if someone has the skills to make it in college, or the skills necessary to be employed and to move up to a better job? The GED has always struggled with servicing both groups; but right now, most GED test teachers feel the test has moved too far into measuring college preparedness."

"Raising the standards was an important thing to do, but without adequate teacher training and a significant investment in current technology, it left adult and correctional education students even further behind in educational achievement," Stephen J. Steurer, executive director of the Correctional Education Association, told Scene. "It is a national tragedy that will continue to have repercussions for years."

Not everyone thinks the collapse in passage rates is a bad thing. Nicole Chestang, a vice president at the American Council on Education, told NPR that the test needs to be more updated and relevant to send proper signals to employers.

"I think we're doing people a real disservice if we don't raise the bar so they are positioned for today's jobs," Chestang told NPR.

Email: eschulzke@desnews.com