“LaGuardia Community College is a GED machine,” writes Fawn Johnson in The Atlantic. Almost 40 percent of urban students don’t finish high school. LaGuardia, in New York City’s bureau of Queens, offers prep classes for the state’s high school equivalency exam that are linked to job training. One course is designed for would-be health workers, another for business students and another for those aiming for technical jobs.
LaGuardia’s free classes, funded by state, city, and foundation grants, have a months-long waiting list. Students willing to pay for courses (at about $3.50 per hour of instruction) can usually get a spot in the next scheduled class, although those fill up, too. Most students are black or Latino.
But a General Educational Development certificate alone won’t suffice for people who want to make a decent wage. So, three years ago, LaGuardia began tailoring its GED-prep classes toward certain professions. Reading material for aspiring health pros includes a book about three friends trying to become doctors. Math homework for prospective engineers involves interpreting charts and graphs. These professional-development additions to GED classes were intended to create a smooth transition to college classes or more job training. The community college wound up inheriting a lot of its own successful GED students. Seventeen percent of its college students are from the GED program.
The pass rate is 53 percent for students in the “contextualized curriculum” courses compared to 22 percent in the old test-prep only courses. Furthermore, 24 percent of students who earn their GED certificate through a LaGuardia course now sign up for courses, more than three times the old rate.