As with most things in life the answer to this question is not a simple “yes” or “no.” There are many things to consider: NM law, the rules of the Lottery Scholarship, private institutions for education, and employers who all have their own rules. But before we discuss all of that, let’s address that we all grew up thinking that the GED was for high school dropouts. Most people see the GED as an alternative path for kids who couldn’t finish high school, but later got their act together. That stigma has caused tears for more than one homeschool mother. But what is the GED, really? It is simply a standardized test to prove that educational proficiency has been achieved. All through life we have to prove we understand in order to move on. You have to take a test to drive, or to be a practicing plumber, doctor, or beautician. Is it really that bad to take a test to prove 12 years of education? Also, did you know that kids who attend public school have to pass a test to get a diploma? The PARCC test is a standardized test that shows the success of the teachers, students, and schools. For public high school, the students who pass the PARCC test get a diploma. Those who don’t pass get a chance to take the test again, but if they don’t meet the minimum requirements then they get a Certificate of Attendance at graduation. NM homeschool law gives us maximum freedom. This means that we don’t have any tests, which truly is a blessing. It also means that the government doesn’t have a way to verify that our kids have met minimum requirements. As homeschoolers we have chosen an alternative path to education, which means we have to make some adjustments along the way. Since we don’t participate in standardized testing, the GED is simply a means to verify the education your child has received.
Does that mean you have to get the GED? No. NM law recognizes parent-provided transcripts; therefore, all public universities and government agencies recognize that a homeschooled child has graduated from homeschool. The GED is not necessary to get into public universities or jobs within the NM government. Now comes the tricky part. If you want to participate in the Lottery Scholarship at a NM institution, you MUST get the GED or the HiSET. A third test called the TASC is not currently accepted in NM. As of 2016, students using these tests to qualify for the Lottery Scholarship must enroll within 16 months of passing. Also, some private institutions or trade schools are not required to accept parent prepared transcripts, so the GED or HiSET might be required.
What about kids who are not planning to attend any type of education or training after high school? Certainly, they don’t need to take the GED, do they? CAPE gets questions every month from someone looking for an alternative to taking the GED. We have heard from adults who cannot find their transcripts, who don’t have a relationship with their parents anymore, or whose parents have passed away. We have also heard of employers who require either a diploma from an accredited high school or a GED. These calls come from adults several years after graduation. They are in a transitional place in their lives and suddenly find that they need proof of a diploma. The people in each of these predicaments are forced to take the GED even ten or more years after they’ve completed high school.
What is the bottom line? If you know what path your life will take and don’t have any unplanned changes, then you certainly can go without getting the GED. But since sometimes we have to turn lemons into lemonade, taking the GED may help. We spend 12 years educating our children, why not go ahead and have them take one standardized test to complete their education? One test during their last semester can prevent future headaches and protect against changes to the NM law or laws of other states. The stigma of taking the same test as a high school dropout is something we can manage on a case-by-case basis and use it as an opportunity to talk about the benefits of homeschool.