Pennsylvania Inmates Rank Higher Than National Average on GED Test

HARRISBURG, Pa. – For the third straight year, inmates in the Pennsylvania state prison system scored higher than the national average on GED (General Educational Development) high school equivalency tests.

Attaining higher education levels and improved vocational skills can lead to reduced recidivism. This is especially critical for individuals who entered the system lacking basic literacy skills.

“Ninety percent or more of all inmates will complete their sentences and be released one day,” said Corrections Secretary John Wetzel. “It is essential that these individuals have the tools to succeed when they are released and chief among them is a high school degree.”

So far this year 1,016 inmates have taken the test with 828 passing, for an 82 percent pass rate, compared with the national overall rate of 76 percent.

That figure shows an increase over 2015, when the Department of Corrections (DOC) gave tests to 741 inmates with 555 passing for a 75 percent pass rate. The national rate in 2015 was 67 percent.

With the advent in 2014 of electronic testing, the DOC had to make extensive changes to accommodate the new system.

The DOC responded by working with its Bureau of Information Technology to ramp up systems to support this testing. With updated servers, computers, and the lab setting, all of the DOC institutions are now certified testing centers.

All corrections school principals and counselors are certified examiners for these sites, and all testing is done on-site in each prison’s education department.

At the same time, GED Testing Service also examined the content of the test and changed the subject areas to better conform with what was being offered to high school students.

The test now focuses on four content areas (math, science, social studies, and language/reading arts). There also are new computer-oriented features that require the test takers to create charts and graphs.

The DOC’s Bureau of Correction Education provided training to DOC staff on the content and curriculum used to teach these new concepts and skills to DOC students. This new test now measures prior knowledge and understanding of content rather than simple reading comprehension.

The bureau also streamlined the qualifications to allow a student to be tested. The new test has been written at a higher learning level and is geared toward testing for college readiness.


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