GED Prep Key to Better Job Opportunities for Adult Learners

I’m not a big fan of the GED when presented to high school students as an easy out.  Life outcomes for GED recipients lag diploma earners.  However, for millions of dropouts trapped in the service economy, the GED can be an important step toward better employmnet.  A NYTimes editorial on Success and Failure on the GED makes the case:

Nearly 40 million Americans are locked into dead-end jobs because they do not have a high school diploma. A daylong exam called the General Educational Development test, or G.E.D., provides the equivalent of a high school diploma — and better chances in the job market — to those who pass it. Nearly 800,000 people take the exam each year, and about 500,000 pass.

The Times points to big differences in pass rates: a high of 90% in Iowa and less than 60% in Alabama, Mississippi, DC, and New York.

States with low success rates do a poor job of prepping students for the exam. The reverse is true in states with high scores. In Iowa, for example, students take a diagnostic pretest, then receive instruction in their weak areas, then take a practice test. In 2009, 98 percent of those who took the test in Iowa passed the G.E.D. exam.The test is free in some states and costs as much as $400 in others. Either way, states should make sure people have a legitimate shot at success.

One of the many successful initiative by Chancellor Klein (and Carnegie’s Michele Cahill when she was Dept. Chancellor) was the Multiple Pathways project.  Some heavy data crunching by Parthenon revealed, for the first time, something close to an Return on Investment analysis that illustrated which alternative education options were most successful.  The Times continues:

A G.E.D. program developed by New York City’s Department of Education may help show New York State — and other states with poor test results — the way forward. The program uses innovative instructional techniques to make sure students are fully prepared. Over the last several years, the program has a pass rate of about 78 percent, more than 20 percentage points higher than the statewide rate.

The American Council of Education received a $3m grant from MetLife Foundation to launch of the first stage of a national program—the GED 21st Century Initiative.

The GED 21st Century Initiative features three high-impact outcomes: delivery of a new, more rigorous GED Test aligned with the Common Core State Standards that will certify college and career readiness; implementation of a national preparation program featuring customized instruction; and support for a transition network that connects test-takers to career and postsecondary opportunities. The work begins with a pilot program with New York City’s District 79 focused on accelerated learning, which offers GED candidates the best possibility of achieving measurable gains in math and reading performance regardless of their initial proficiency level.

The Times is right, there’s no excuse for inadequate preparation these day; it’s so easy to create a flexible and personalized course of study to prepare each adult student for the test.
For more on this topic, see JFF’s GED to College, a Gates supported program.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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