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Describing characteristics and outcomes of high school equivalency exam takers in New Jersey


Description: New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) has requested information about the three High School Equivalency (HSE) exams offered in the state: (1) the GED, (2) the Test Assessing Secondary Completion (TASC), and (3) the High School Equivalency Test (HiSET). NJDOE houses the Adult Education — High School Equivalency Office, which oversees administration of the three HSE assessments and provides resources to test takers and schools about HSE options.

NJDOE has expressed a need for information about the three HSE assessments, because TASC and HiSET were introduced in 2014, and the GED underwent substantial changes during that same time. Most New Jersey HSE test takers take one of the two new assessments. For the GED and HiSET, New Jersey sets its own cut scores for passing, which are above the test developers' cut scores. For the TASC, New Jersey uses the passing score suggested by the test developer. In this period of expansion and change in the HSE field, this study will offer NJDOE useful information about the characteristics of the test takers, their test performance, and differences among the tests.

Research Questions:

  1. Who takes the three high school equivalency (HSE) exams in New Jersey, and how do the characteristics of test takers compare across exams and compare to other students in the state?
  2. How do test takers perform on the three HSE exams in New Jersey, and how does this vary by demographic and academic characteristics?
    1. How would passing rates for the three HSE exams change if New Jersey adopted different cut scores for passing?
  3. How do scores on each of the three HSE exams align with scores on the other HSE exams for students with similar prior performance?

Study Design: This study will use individual-level data capturing demographic characteristics, academic background before leaving school, and high school equivalency test participation and results to describe the characteristics and test outcomes of students who were previously enrolled as 8th graders in New Jersey public schools and took one of the three current High School Equivalency exams, or HSEs: GED, TASC, or Hi-SET. The data for the proposed study will come from two sources: (1) the state's longitudinal K–12 information system, NJ SMART, and (2) data collected by NJDOE from HSE testing vendors. The study will (1) describe the characteristics of students who take the HSE exams in New Jersey, and compare those characteristics to other students in the state, (2) compare the performance of students on the three exams by demographic and academic characteristics, (3) describe how passing rates for the three exams would change if New Jersey adopted different characteristics for passing, and (4) describe how scores on each of the three HSE exams align with scores on the other HSE for students with similar prior performance.

Projected Release Date: Winter 2020

Partnership or Research Alliance: Accountability in the ESSA Era.

Related Products: Making Connections Report

Principal Investigators & Affiliation:

Jacob Hartog, Mathematica