Krista M. LeBrun dropped out of high school in ninth grade, earned a GED at 17 — and kept on going, she writes in a Community College Week commentary.
Tired of of being treated as a loser, LeBrun went to Meridian Community College (Mississippi), where Browning Rochefort, then director of adult education, “looked at me as though I was somebody, that I had potential.” Rochefort told LeBrun she was ready to take the GED, which she passed two weeks later.
LeBrun worked at casinos for awhile, but decided she wanted more than a “good enough diploma.”
. . . at 19, I moved back to Meridian and found myself back at Browning’s door. She encouraged me to take basic courses, to test the waters in multiple areas to see if I found an area that sparked my interested. Within two years, I graduated from MCC with an associate degree.
The two years I had spent at MCC made me realize that I loved school. I loved learning. I loved my teachers and I still wanted to be the teacher Robin Williams once inspired me to be. I enrolled at Mississippi State University-Meridian, where I went on to earn my BS in elementary education with certifications in English and social science. I was asked to give the keynote address at commencement.
As a third-grade teacher, she became her school’s technology specialist, using knowledge gained during a short internship. While working, she took online courses to earn a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in distance education.
She was hired by a university to develop an online education program. A dean told her she didn’t have to stop at a master’s degree. She earned a Ph.D. in instructional leadership with an emphasis in instructional technology from the University of Alabama and returned to MCC as director of eLearning.
California Gov. Jerry Brown wants to shift adult education from K-12 districts to community colleges, but the Legislature may not go alone, reports the Oakland Tribune.
The plan would give community colleges an additional $300 million to set up similar adult education programs, including high school diploma or equivalency courses, vocational education and citizenship classes. College leaders note the amount is less than half of what the state spent on adult schools five years ago, and that colleges have no experience running some of these programs.
“We’ve never been in the business of doing GED (the high school diploma equivalent), nor have we done anything with citizenship,” said Ron Galatolo, chancellor of the San Mateo County Community College District.
Under the governor’s proposal, school districts would continue to get the same funding, but could shift the money to other uses. In Oakland, which has a 27 percent dropout rate, the district plans to close its GED programs if it isn’t required to serve adult students.
. . . the nonpartisan state Legislative Analyst’s Office cites “major problems” with the plan and urges the Legislature to instead invest the money in a special fund for adult education, managed by K-12 school districts.
. . . For years, community colleges have also offered remedial courses, including English as a second language, but have generally targeted higher-skilled students, while adult schools — often in courses set up at a school or community center — have worked with school dropouts and recent immigrants and refugees, including those unable to read or write.
Proponents argue adult education students could move more easily to job training and college classes, if they started at community colleges. Colleges could contract with existing adult ed programs rather than design their own classes.
Louisiana has shifted adult basic education from high schools to community colleges: Unemployed and underemployed adults can train for skilled jobs while studying for a GED through the Louisiana Community and Technical College System’s (LCTCS) Work Ready U, reports Community College Times.
Most Work Ready U students are training for jobs in construction trades and welding or health care jobs, such as nursing assistants, phlebotomists and pharmacy technicians.
Delgado Community College (DCC) now has 2,500 students in adult basic education, compared to 500 in 2007-08. DCC is one of 10 Louisiana community colleges in Jobs for the Future’s Accelerating Opportunity program. “There is no reason why a student should need a GED before they start on a career pathway,” said Barbara Endel, national project director for Accelerating Opportunity.
Traditional adult ed courses didn’t provide enough structure and support, said LCTCS Chancellor Joe May.
When ABE was administered by the K-12 education system, it was run on an “open-entry, open-exit approach,” May said. That didn’t work so well with people who had dropped out of school, so there were high attrition rates.
. . . Work Ready U programs limit the number of people who come in at any one time and provide extra counseling and social services. Also, switching GED courses to community colleges allowed for more flexible scheduling, including evening hours, which are more convenient for adults with families and jobs.
“Pushing someone to get a GED requires a ton of effort, particularly for adults with families,” said DCC Chancellor Monty Sullivan. However, it’s worth the effort. More Work Ready U students are enrolling in credit-bearing courses. On average, they are less likely to drop out than regular students.
Last year Congress dropped Pell Grant eligibility for high school dropouts who passed an “ability-to-benefit” test. To keep Work Ready U on track, DCC turned to foundations to fund tuition aid.
Students who never made it through high school usually don’t make it through community college. But Florida’s Santa Fe College is improving the odds through a mentoring program for GED students called Pathways to Persistence.
Fifty-five percent of GED students drop out of community college in their first year, Pathways founder Angela Long tells Community College Times.
Pathways offers support through hand-picked mentors—Long chooses a match based on initial scholar interviews—who range from professors to administrators or other college staff, plus a crew of volunteer peers from college organizations for tutoring assistance.
. . . “The goal is to make GED students feel so special that they have an impact on the country and to give them a voice to tell us what is working in education, what has failed them, and how we can make it better,” Long says.
. . . Mentors meet with assigned mentees at least once a week the first month of the program, and every other week thereafter, following assigned topics that include how to pick classes and talk about financial assistance. Mentees also attend a weekly 3-credit course in the fall semester and attend leadership seminars and luncheons with key SFC members.
Thirty students started in last fall and another 20 joined in spring 2012. More than half earned a 3.0 GPA or higher.
Young illegal immigrants began applying this week for two-year stays on deportation and renewable work permits. But high school dropouts aren’t eligible — unless they’re enrolled in classes leading to a GED or a job. That could mean a big demand for community college classes.
Applicants must have been younger than 31 when the administration policy was announced on June 15, brought to the U.S. before the age of 16 and in the country for five years or more. Applicants must also be high school graduates or GED holders or be enrolled in school. Those convicted of a “serious” crime are not eligible.
Up to 1.76 million people are eligible or will be when they turn 15, estimates the Migration Policy Institute.
College students represent just a small share of young illegal immigrants, Roberto Gonzales, a University of Chicago sociology professor, told the Chronicle of Higher Education. Some 350,000 high school drop-outs could qualify by enrolling in a program before filing an application.
One student who plans to apply is Karla Campos, 25, who came from Mexico about 16 years ago and is working on her GED. Her 10-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter dream of attending college, and she used to worry that she wouldn’t be able to afford to help them do so—several employers turned her away because she was not authorized to work.
Now that she is eligible for a work permit, Ms. Campos is confident that she can make higher education a reality for her children. She would now like to go to college, too, though it’s too soon to say what her major would be.
Enrollment in a GED program or an “education, literacy, or career training program (including vocational training) that is designed to lead to placement in postsecondary education, job training, or employment” would qualify non-graduates, according to federal guidelines. Dropouts can choose federal or state-funded programs or programs “administered by providers of demonstrated effectiveness, such as institutions of higher education, including community colleges, and certain community-based organizations.”
If dropouts enroll in community college, get a deferral and then fail to complete the program — a likely outcome for poorly prepared students — could they enroll again in two years when their deferral runs out? The deferrals are based on Obama administration policy, not law, so it’s hard to know.
President Obama’s quasi-amnesty for young illegal immigrants doesn’t require college attendance or military service, according to Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano’s memo. Applicants who came illegally by age 16 and are 30 or younger must pass a background check showing no felonies or multiple misdemeanors. In addition, the applicant must be: “currently in school, has graduated from high school, has obtained a general education development certificate, or is an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States.” Those who qualify will be able to get two-year work permits renewable indefinitely.
“In school” seems to refer to high school. Would dropouts qualify if they enroll in GED or basic skills classes at a community college? Do they have to pass their classes?
The military provision is a bit puzzling: Illegal immigrants aren’t eligible to serve in the military. However, a few use fraudulent papers to enlist. The order doesn’t say whether those who qualify for temporary work permits will be allowed to serve in the military. If so, would their service qualify them for citizenship? I can’t imagine denying citizenship to military veterans.
In May, speaking at the commencement of Miami Dade College‘s commencement ceremonies, President Obama reaffirmed his support for the Dream Act, which provides a path to citizenship for young immigrants who complete two years of college or serve in the military in the six years after qualifying for conditional legal status. The executive order doesn’t promise citizenship.
The GED will add a college-readiness section in hopes of replacing Accuplacer, a popular placement test used by community colleges, writes Paul Fain on Inside Higher Ed. GED earners who qualify as college ready should be able to earn a C or better in college-level classes, said a GED spokesman, CT Turner.
The new computer-based GED will take seven hours to complete the high school equivalency and a “college- and career-ready” sections.
The new GED will be a more complex, harder test. It will draw from common core standards many states have adopted. And instead of being a pass-fail test, the GED will provide “enhanced score reporting.”
The test will be broken into subject areas for literacy, math, science and social studies. Students will need to meet a minimum score on all to earn high-school equivalency credentials, Turner said. But the college-readiness assessment will be subject-by-subject, meaning a student could place out of remedial math while not passing literacy, and require college remediation in English.
College Board’s Accuplacer and ACT’s Compass place too many students in dead-end remedial classes, according to research by the Community College Research Center. College placement “based on one test not a good idea,” said researcher Clive Belfield, who doubted the new GED will prove superior to Accuplacer. “Colleges need to get multiple measures.”
College doors will shut for the neediest students on July 1, when federal aid is cut to would-be students who lack a high school diploma or GED. Currently, these students can take a basic skills test to prove their “ability to benefit” from college classes or successfully complete six credits. The new federal budget cuts off aid to these students to save Pell Grant money, notes Inside Higher Ed.
College administrators say they worry the new policy will shut out older students seeking training to find a new job, immigrants, and students in states where money for basic adult education has been cut in budget crises.
Either those students will turn to riskier private loans, they say, or — more likely — they’ll just give up on pursuing higher education.
Community colleges and for-profit colleges enroll the most “ability to benefit” students, though the total amounts to only 1 percent of the community college population. The new policy “runs counter to the missions of many of our colleges,” said David Baime, vice president for government relations at the American Association of Community Colleges.
Only a third of high school dropouts without a GED earned a college credential in six years, according to a study by the National Center for Education Statistics. That’s no worse than students who’d completed a GED.
“Ability to benefit” students are more likely to default on student loans. As a result two major for-profit educators, Kaplan and Corinthian Colleges, no longer enroll “ability to benefit” students.
The GED is being redesigned “as a step in a journey toward postsecondary training, rather than as an end in itself,” reports Education Week. “The new exam, due out in 2014, will have two passing points: the traditional one connoting high school equivalency, and an additional, higher one signaling college and career readiness.”
Currently, the GED requires only one short essay. The new version probably will require two longer essays and four short ones in all subject areas. Expert panels will set cutoff scores at the high school equivalency and college readiness level.
“The message is that you’re not here just to get a high school equivalency and walk out. You’re here to get prepared for careers and educational opportunities that are going to demand that you have even more skill,” said Nicole M. Chestang, the executive vice president of the GED Testing Service.
Some 750,000 teens and adults — typically with a 10th-grade education — now take the GED exam, which covers reading, writing, math, science and social studies. However, GED holders don’t do as well as high school graduates in the workforce or in higher education.
Some say the test is too easy.
Officials in New York City, for instance, said last December that the passing score reflects only middle-school-level content and skills. The city is helping pilot a new, accelerated GED curriculum and accompanying supports in a subdistrict of alternative schools.
Others say people who pass the GED equal high school graduates in cognitive skills, but resemble dropouts in “soft skills,” such as persistence, motivation and ability to work with others.
While GED recipients are more likely to enroll in college than high school dropouts, few earn a certificate or degree.
A 2009 study (pdf) by the ACE followed 1,000 people who took the GED and found that only 307 had enrolled in postsecondary education five years later. Three-quarters dropped out after one semester, and only 17 completed a degree or certificate.
Since 2007, La Guardia Community College in New York has increased the college transition rate dramatically through its GED Bridge to College and Careers (pdf) program. While studying for the GED, students also learn college-level material to prepare for careers in business or health care. In addition, instructors also teach “college knowledge,” such as how to apply for financial aid.
Before the bridge program was created, only 35 percent of GED students enrolled in college classes. Last year, 80 percent of bridge graduates went on to certificate or degree programs.
“Making that connection with community college is an essential part of flipping the GED into an aspirational degree,” said Gail Mellow, the community college’s president.
A high school dropout and Navy veteran, my brother-in-law got into Cal Poly based on his very high GED score. He earned a degree in computer science. But that was a long time ago.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Young Men’s Initiative will offer basic skills classes, job training, paid internships and mentoring to young black and Latino men. City University of New York hopes to play a key role, reports Inside Higher Ed.
Whenever there’s a conversation about educational or workforce preparedness goals in New York City, CUNY is going to be involved,” said Suri Duitch, associate university dean for continuing education and deputy to the senior university dean for academic affairs at CUNY. “
CUNY is also incorporating some of the findings from the city’s original round of research into other programs already in place. “One commonality of all the effective programs is that they helped young men find and keep a stable adult in their lives,” Duitch said. “And we will incorporate those into our models as well.”
As part of the initiative, city high schools’ performance grades will factor in the success rates of black and Latino male students.