Some adult eduction teachers with whom I’m acquainted sent me a link to this NPR story that explores whether a GED—or General Education Development test— is a valuable credential for people who have dropped out of school to acquire. In delving into the question, the story cited a study indicating that a high school diploma was better than a GED. (Duh!) NPR reporter Claudio Sanchez also talked to a management official from the GED testing service who told him they are working hard to improve the design of the test, to make it a better tool for both college and career readiness, and that a new and improved version will be out in 2014.
In addition to the above, however, the story had embedded in it interview clips with two Los Angeles educators. One of the interviews is with our own LAUSD Superintendent Dr. John Deasy, and the other features the head of LAUSD’s Adult Eduction program, Ed Morris.
Neither man had anything good to say about the GED. In fact, they were both fairly withering in their assessments.
“The GED is a credential. Is it adequate for gainful employment and a living wage in the United States of America today? I do not think so,” said Deasy.
Morris went still further.
“If I were prepared today with a GED,” he told NPR’s Sanchez, “and that’s what I had as an 18-year-old, I’d be scared to death of the future.”
My! What a helpful outlook.
The adult ed teachers with whom I spoke, and their colleagues who had also heard the interviews,– (some of whom have even taught those poor deluded adult students who still want GEDs)—-were utterly incensed to hear their two top bosses say publicly they saw little or no value in something they—the teachers—had seen hundreds of adult students sweat to achieve.
“Morris says he’d be ‘scared to death’ if all he had was a GED,” one adult ed instructor wrote in an email. “How he would feel armed with nothing at all? How ironic that the NPR reporter interviewed the very men who [are] working to dismantle LAUSD’s once thriving adult education division.”
(It should be noted that since, every ten minutes, some official is carving yet another ghastly chunk out of the LAUSD adult ed budget, with near fatal cuts now immanently threatened, these teachers are not, by and large, in a good mood.)
As someone who has reported for two decades on populations for whom the GED is often a hugely important milestone, I too was stunned at the dismissive tone both these men used.
Of course a high school diploma is better than a GED, and a college education is much, much better still. (Despite what the ever more bizarre Mr. Santorum might opine.)
But for many of the men and women I have known who dropped out of high school because of gang membership, or pregnancy, or incarceration, or a family crisis, or any one of a number of other education-interrupting reasons, going back to high school in one’s 20’s or 30s no longer felt like a reasonable option. However, a GED felt doable, and the process of getting one did not feel humiliating.
Moreover, for many of those men and women, and others like them, while the acquisition of a GED doesn’t guarantee employment (far from it, but then neither does a Master’s degree in this employment climate), it is nonetheless often the psychological gateway that allows them the confidence to pound on doors until they find the decent job they might not otherwise have found, and then, from there, they are able to reach for the decent life that previously seemed to elude them. Even better, for a surprising number, a GED is the first step on the path to belatedly go to college.
Really, right off the top of my head, I can give you a dozen such examples of late college goers I have known—few of whom would have gotten on the college path were it not for the GED.
Sure, for some the certificate doesn’t count for a lot, but for many it does.
Thus it is more than a little dismaying to find that the two men who have the most power over GED prep programs in LA County, don’t appear to understand their value.
Or maybe they do. And this is just some creepily disingenuous way to rationalize the gutting of them.
The GED prep classes are, of course, only one of many reasons why Deasy and Morris must not to slash and burn Adult Education. There are all the job training programs, which have successfully helped thousands get back to work, and the English learner classes…. the list goes on and on.
Let us hope that Deasy and Morris hold the rest of the Adult Ed programs in higher regard than they hold the GED.