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Subject:

GED Article from the Times

From:

Norman Stahl <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 17 May 2004 08:16:16 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (228 lines)

More Youths Opt for G.E.D., Skirting High-School Hurdle

By KAREN W. ARENSON

Published: May 15, 2004


The testing system created more than half a century ago to help World War II
veterans earn the equivalent of a high school diploma has increasingly
become a
way for teenagers to short-circuit high school.
Roughly one of every seven high school diplomas granted in the United States
in recent years has gone to someone who has passed the tests, known as the
G.E.D. And the proportion of school-age students taking that route has risen
sharply.


Nationally, teenagers accounted for 49 percent of those earning G.E.D.'s in
2002, up from 33 percent a decade earlier. Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts and
New York were among the states where teenagers accounted for more than half of
those earning G.E.D.'s. in 2002.

"The proportion of teenagers getting G.E.D.'s has doubled since 1989, while
overall high school graduation rates have declined slightly," said Duncan
Chaplin, an economist at the Urban Institute in Washington.

The growth has been especially pronounced in New York City. Last year, more
than 37,000 school-age students were in G.E.D. programs run by the school
system, up from 25,500 two years earlier.

Most educators view the G.E.D. as a valuable option for people who do not
make it through high school, but they do not consider it equivalent.
"The G.E.D. was intended to be a second chance for adults; it was never
intended to replace a high school education," said Anita Caref, director of
the
adult literacy program at Brooklyn College.

Experts attribute the flood of young people in part to the difficulty in
finding a decent job without a high school diploma, and in part to the
increased
difficulty of earning a traditional high school diploma in many states. New
York, for example, has made passing five Regents exams a condition of
graduation,
and no longer offers a lesser diploma for weaker students.

Under the federal No Child Left Behind law and state efforts to hold schools
more accountable, schools have more incentive to discourage weak students from
staying. Students who transfer to G.E.D. programs are usually off school
rolls, but in many states are not counted as dropouts.

Mr. Chaplin, of the Urban Institute, said he had "found pretty strong
evidence that the G.E.D. option has been encouraging kids to drop out of
high schools
nationwide."

"The rules governing the G.E.D. have become more lenient over time," he said.
"Under No Child Left Behind, we're holding schools very strictly accountable
for test scores, but barely holding them accountable for students who drop out
or go into G.E.D. programs. It is like holding hospitals accountable for the
condition of patients who leave, but ignoring the number who die. It's a
perverse incentive system."

Strictly speaking, the G.E.D. is not an educational program but a set of five
tests requiring more than seven hours and covering reading, writing,
mathematics, social studies and science.

As with the College Board's SAT exams, students are not required to enroll in
any classes before taking the tests, officially the Tests of General
Educational Development, which are administered by the American Council on
Education
in Washington. But many students need help to pass the G.E.D., and a patchwork
of programs has evolved to assist them, run not only by school districts but
also by community organizations, universities and proprietary schools.

"There seems to be a whole shadow system of schools," said Elisa Hyman,
deputy director of Advocates for Children, which has charged New York City
high
schools with pushing their weakest students into G.E.D. programs without
proper
counseling. "Thousands of kids are participating in this alternative diploma
track that is clearly inferior to a regular diploma."

There are no counts of how many students are in G.E.D. programs nationwide,
but G.E.D. directors say that their programs are overflowing and that the
number of young people has shot up.

One sign of the increase is reflected in the number of young people who take
the tests or pass them, although they represent only a portion of the young
people in G.E.D. programs. In 2001, about 2.8 million students earned
traditional high school diplomas, while about 648,000 G.E.D.'s were
awarded, including
266,000 to teenagers

Mr. Aminnullah, who said he kept getting into scrapes and was suspended, said
he chose the G.E.D. after learning that he had accumulated few credits toward
graduation. But he had no problem passing the G.E.D. almost immediately.
His classmate Priscilla Catapano also saw the G.E.D. as a lifesaver. She
enrolled at the Jamaica Learning Center last November, three months after
her 17th
birthday, when she realized that she could not graduate with her class.
She had cut classes in ninth grade  "It was stupid," she says now  and
missed more classes later because of medical problems. She could not bear
to be
left behind, and passed the G.E.D. this spring.

"If you are just getting a job, you are not going to get the best job with a
G.E.D.," Ms. Catapano said. She added: "I figured that once you are in
college, who cares whether you have a high school diploma or a G.E.D.? And I'm
confident that I will complete college."


With the introduction of a new, harder test in 2002, the number of G.E.D.'s
fell to 330,000. But Joan Chikos Auchter, executive director of the G.E.D.
Testing Service, and others predict that the numbers will bounce back.
G.E.D. preparation programs vary. Typically, classes are only a couple of
hours a day, sometimes just two or three days a week. Often there is no
standard
curriculum, and there are no state licensing requirements for teachers. Many
classes focus on the types of problems the students will encounter on the exam.
Advertisement

At the Jamaica Learning Center in Queens, one of the first things Arnold
Smith does when he arrives at his classroom is to post fractured sentences,
full
of grammar, spelling and punctuation errors like the ones students will
have to
spot and correct on the G.E.D.

One morning in February, Mr. Smith's students were focused on this sentence:
"Excited and anxious, the gift's was quickly unwrapped."

"This is a hard one," Mr. Smith said.
A student responded, "No it ain't."

But it took some hints before the students could identify all the errors.
The students were mostly attentive. The pace was quick. And Mr. Smith was
nonjudgmental and encouraging.

One student later praised Mr. Smith's method, saying: "Now I get it. I never
got it before."

The Jamaica center sends about 300 students a year to take the tests, and
about 80 percent pass. But hundreds more are not close to taking the test, and
many drop out. Some are in basic literacy classes because they read below
sixth-grade level. Some are in pre-G.E.D. classes, where the reading level
is grades
seven to nine. Only those reading at a 10th-grade level or above are put in
the actual G.E.D. classes.

G.E.D. administrators say the teenage students bring problems that adult
students do not have.

"Not only do the younger students arrive with academic deficiencies," said
Carlo Baldi, director of the Adult Literacy Program at the City College of New
York, "but they often come in with pretty serious deficiencies in life skills,
too. Things like attendance, responsibility, maintaining communications."
Still, Mr. Baldi and others are reluctant to turn young students away.

"A high school diploma is a very important currency," said Leslee Oppenheim,"
director of curriculum and instruction at the City University of New York.
"This opens all kinds of doors."

Even students who obtain a G.E.D., however, are not home free. They typically
earn less than high school graduates, and are less likely to go to college.
The Army limits G.E.D.-holders to no more than 5 percent of its enlistees, and
they do not qualify for the same enlistment options, said S. Douglas Smith, a
spokesman for the Army Recruiting Command.

But to many struggling high school students, the issue is not so much the
future as the unhappy present.

Some students choose the G.E.D. on their own; others, struggling
academically, are told by school officials that they would be better off in
a G.E.D.
program. Recent immigrants with weak English are frequently discouraged from
enrolling in high school and pointed toward G.E.D. programs.

In one recent study, John W. Sipple of Cornell University and David H. Monk
and Kieran Killeen of Pennsylvania State University "found evidence that
teachers advise students of the G.E.D. option as early as eighth grade."
Dr. Sipple
declined to name any schools.

Many students say they know that the G.E.D. is viewed as a lesser degree, but
that the atmosphere in G.E.D. programs is preferable to what they face in
high school.

"High school isn't for everybody," said Abdullah Aminnullah, the 17-year-old
son of Afghan immigrants, who entered the Jamaica Learning Center last winter.
"You don't get as much attention in high school as here," he said, adding,
"The teachers here really care and pay attention to you, and they really
teach."





Andrea Mohin/The New York TimesArnold Smith teaches a G.E.D. class at the
Jamaica Learning Center in Queens. About 300 of the center's students take the
test each year.








Norman A. Stahl
Professor and Chair
Literacy Education
GA 147
Northern Illinois University
DeKalb, IL 60115

Phone: (815) 753-9032
FAX:   (815) 753-8563
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