The GED Helps Adults Get Back on Track: Is it enough?

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October 10, 2016 by HCDE Communications

The GED Helps Adults Get Back on Track: Is it enough?For the more than 600,000 adults without high school diplomas in Harris County, gaining a High School Equivalency Certificate (HSEC) is traditionally a way of getting back on track. Maybe the goal is to attend college or to compete for family-sustaining jobs.  Yet the road to obtaining a HSEC becomes steeper, and its economic rewards are somewhat underwhelming.

The GED test is currently the only way to obtain a HSEC in Texas, but more options are on the way. Since the GED test was updated in 2014, the number of people taking the test and those passing the test dropped by as much as 90 percent compared to previous years.

Why?  The new test is significantly harder, incorporating both national and Texas college and career readiness standards.  For instance, approximately 60 percent of the new math test covers algebra, a topic that was barely addressed by the old GED test.  Reading and writing tasks in the new GED also require students to analyze and evaluate multiple reading passages.

Some veteran adult education teachers in our program received extra training to cope with the higher level academic requirements of the test.  The more rigorous test standards were designed to ensure that GED certificates where truly equivalent to high school diplomas and that they truly demonstrated readiness for college or other post-secondary training.  On the negative side, the new test is making it much harder for adults to get back on track with their education.

In 2015, the GED Testing Service rolled back the passing score for GED test because GED passers were actually better prepared for college than the average high school student.  So while GED passing rates are slowly beginning to climb, it is still a very challenging test. This is especially true for adults who have been out of school for a few years.

Even if an adult is successful in obtaining a GED, how much of an impact is going to have on their lives?   Most of the recent research on the impact of the GED shows that the economic impact of obtaining a GED for a person is about $80 a week compared to someone without high school diploma.

More significant wage impacts don’t begin to show up until adults have a few years of college or job related post-secondary certificate.   Recent labor market research also shows that in Texas and nationwide, up to 60 percent of jobs in the next 10 years will require a college degree, making it harder for those with just a GED or high school diploma to effectively compete for most available jobs.

Changing labor market conditions lead to changes in federal legislation that supports education and training.  The Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act passed in 2105 encourages adult education programs to work closely with local workforce boards, colleges and other organizations to provide undereducated adults with integrated education and training opportunities that can help adults get to good jobs faster.  Under this model, adults can work on getting a high school equivalency certificate and an industry recognized certificate at the same time. Examples of certificate careers include occupations in welding, pipefitting or computer repair.

While it’s not easy for adults to juggle the demands of family and work with a rigorous academic and training program, the rewards are huge for those who can.  This exciting new way forward challenges adult education programs in Harris County to think beyond the GED.  More than ever, it is just a stepping stone to the development of career pathways for undereducated adults.

Texas Center for the Advancement of Literacy and Learning (TCALL)          

About the Blogger:
Since 2009, Dr. Eduardo Honold has been director of the Adult Education division at HCDE. He oversees the delivery of GED, ESL, English language civics and integrated vocational and literacy classes to more than 7,000 adults annually under a contract Houston-Galveston Galveston Area Council.  At a cost of less than $500 per student and positive client satisfaction of over 95 percent, the Adult Education division delivers high-quality literacy services through innovative practices like distance learning, integrated vocation/literacy training, workforce literacy and fast-track GED curriculum. Dr. Honold honed his professional skills after decades of experience raising four children with his wife at the helm. Born in Santiago, Chile, he proudly became a U.S. citizen in 1998.


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