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State officials have dropped its longtime high school equivalency exam to go with a new test from a new company.

"It'll work exactly the same," said Denise Juneau, state superintendent of public instruction.

The state made its decision after GEDTS -- a new for-profit corporation formed by the American Council on Education and textbook company Pearson -- planned to more than double the cost of the GED exam in 2014, raising it to $120. Currently it costs $55 to take the test.

GED, the General Education Development test, is the brand name of the high school equivalency exam.

Last week, Juneau recommended that the Montana Board of Public Education enter into a contract with Educational Testing Service, or ETS, to develop a new Montana high school equivalency exam.

"We pulled together a panel of people," she said.

One of the participants was Josh Middleton, director of adult education for School District 2, who also recommended using ETS.

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Montana students who pass a high school equivalency exam are awarded a high school equivalency diploma from the state. Juneau said while the test now may be offered by a different company, the state diploma is the same.

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The state chose to go with ETS because they have ties to the Common Core State Standards initiative, a set of nationwide curriculum standards now adopted by 45 states.

The cost to students will be significantly cheaper and testtakers will get two additional chances to retake the test at no cost. ETS will charge $50 for the test.

ETS also gives students the option of taking the test online or on paper. Juneau likes the paper option. She said older students who come in to take the test are sometimes intimidated by having to do it on a computer.

GED was getting rid of its paper test option.

"Montanans who do not have a high school diploma need access to an affordable, high-quality, high school equivalency exam," Juneau said. "ETS is the best option for our state."

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