A change that gives those who failed for one reason or another to get a high school diploma another option to go back and get it is moving close to reality.

The State Board of Education signed off on the rule change for the high school equivalency requirements during their meeting last week. Department of Education spokesman, Jeremy Varner, says those who have wanted to get the missed high school diploma had only had one option.

“For a number of decades, the only way a student or adult could attain a high school equivalency diploma if they didn’t earn a high school diploma, was to take a high stakes test. For about 75 years that was the GED,” Varner says. The process was changed a few years ago to require you to take a battery of five tests to prove your worthiness.

“One thing that we heard clearly from a number of stakeholders was that the test battery can be very intimidating for many students, it’s not the best fit for many students,” Varner explains. “We had a task force spend a year-and-a-half taking a good hard look at the way students can demonstrate competency equivalent to a high school diploma — and they found some other approaches that have worked in other states.” The Legislature gave the Board of Education approval to move forward and Varner says they’ve settled on the rules that allow students to use credits they’ve obtained after high school to count toward their high school diploma.

“So if a student dropped out of high school only a couple of classes shot of graduation, they could bundle high school and college credits and obtain an equivalency diploma,” Varner says. “Or if they’ve obtained other postsecondary credentials beyond an associate’s degree or have a degree from a foreign country, they could demonstrate competency in those ways.” Varner, who is the community colleges division administrator for the Education Department, says the new proposal also allows you to use knowledge you’ve gained for your job to obtain the high school degree.

“So if they have work experience equivalent to some education they can earn credit for that. So they can combine the education and experience they already have with some additional courses that would round that out so they can obtain a high school diploma,” he says.

Varner says for example, someone that’s taken classes to become a welder and started working in the field could use that experience toward obtaining the high school diploma. The new rules contain a formula for determining how the other experience translates into high school credits for the degree. He says they don’t have an exact count on how many people try to get their high school equivalency each year, but believe it could be hundreds.

“So it could easily be 500 to 700 students a year who could benefit from this opportunity,” Varner says. There will be a public hearing on the rule change

October 31st from ten to 11 A.M. in the Education Department’s board room at the Grimes State Office Building in Des Moines. Varner says following the hearing the new option could be in place by January. The five-test battery will still be available for those who want to take it to try and earn the high school degree.