Does a High School Diploma Add Labor Market Value to the GED?

Interesting reporting here, deep inside a story on D.C. Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson’s strategies to improve the D.C. graduation rates, on the debate over whether GED passers in the District of Columbia should be awarded a high school diploma, instead of the high school equivalency credential that is currently awarded:

During a meeting with OSSE officials this month, some board members had questions about the proposal to give a diploma, rather than a credential, to students who pass the GED. As of early December, 374 D.C. residents had taken the GED this year.In the District, you must be 18 to take the test, and many test-takers are older. But the shift could have a significant effect on graduation rates at alternative schools that offer GED preparation classes, such as Ballou STAY, which reported a 4 percent four-year graduation rate in 2013.

Currently, 13 states, including Maryland, award diplomas to those who pass the GED. City officials maintain that those who pass the test are demonstrating the same cognitive skills and abilities as a high school graduate, and a diploma could give them a better chance at getting a job or pursuing higher education.The GED was revised this year to align with Common Core academic standards, and the threshold for passing the test is based on how a sample of high school graduating seniors perform on it.

“I think it’s a valid approach, but I don’t think it’s the same” as actually attending and finishing high school, Laura Slover, an outgoing board member from Ward 3, said during a State Board meeting this month. She recommended that if GED recipients receive a diploma, they should be reported separately.

Some research shows that although GED test-takers can demonstrate comparable cognitive skills, they are less likely to demonstrate life skills such as perseverance that students develop by reporting to school day in and day out.

Great reporting by the Post‘s Michael Alison Chandler. A helpful primer on the issue not just in D.C. but in other states where this discussion is also taking place.

I’m not close to the local D.C. adult education scene anymore, so no special insights here, but I would just add a couple of quick thoughts:

  • Does the fact that the neighboring state of Maryland does award a high school diploma to GED graduates put D.C. GED recipients at a competitive disadvantage? I have no idea, but it’s sort of implied above.
  • There is much enthusiasm in the adult education policy world over initiatives that provide high school or high school equivalency faster for those who have dropped out of school, and in my limited anecdotal experience, not a lot of discussion about the quality and value of such initiatives for students over the long-term. If your system tends to use the number of diplomas or credentials awarded as the primary metric for assessing such initiatives, that’s not surprising.
  • I get that for someone who dropped out of school, earning a diploma quickly may be attractive, and thus encourage more dropouts to return to school, but I would think dual enrollment opportunities that offer opportunities for earning college credit while working toward that diploma (or equivalent) would do the same, and potentially have more lasting value. In any case, evidence that either really works as a motivating factor would be helpful.

The First Adult Charter School Opened in D.C. in 1998, Not Today

(Updated Below)

From today’s POLITICO Morning Education:

FIRST ADULT CHARTER SCHOOL OPENS IN D.C. — The first adult charter school in Washington, D.C. to offer educational services and skills training opens today. The Community College Preparatory Academy teamed up with Pearson to help adults move from high school into postsecondary education and careers. The school plans to serve about 150 students in its first year and up to 300 students by its third year.

The news that D.C. is welcoming its first adult charter school today will certainly be of interest to these guys, who got their charter way back in 1998. Not a big deal, but it’s important to recognize that charters in D.C. have been serving adults for quite some time.

More on D.C. charters and adult education here.

UPDATE 9/18/13: Politico has clarified their story, noting that the Community College Preparatory Academy is the first charter school to offer adult education in Southeast D.C.

UPDATE 9/18/13 (2): Fixed link to the Carlos Rosario School.

Here’s an Idea for D.C.’s New One City Fund – Use It to Address the Lack of Diversity on Nonprofit Boards

From a May 5th article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy on how racial bias impedes diversity at nonprofits:

A 2010 Urban Institute report found that people of color are underrepresented on nonprofit boards in the Baltimore-Washington area, given their share in the region’s population. The report found that 77 percent of nonprofit board members in the area are white, and some boards—24 percent of them—are completely made up of white people. (my emphasis)

Mayor Gray’s proposed One City Fund (which includes, as one if its goals, “growing and diversifying our economy”) could be a great opportunity to do something about this, by awarding grants to nonprofits in D.C. that either have diverse leadership in place, or at least can demonstrate that they have a clear commitment to do so. Here’s a group that has done some good work on this issue.

The “Least Surprising Policy Position Ever”

This is old news, but I was amused by Michael Neibauer’s lede in this January 30th article for the Washington Business Journal on Walmart’s opposition to a proposed living wage law in D.C.:

In the least surprising policy position ever, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will oppose D.C. Council legislation that would force it, and other big box retailers, to pay their employees a living wage.

Reading this article I was reminded of a statement provided to Neibauer for another Journal article back on August 28th, 2012:

“Walmart and the Walmart Foundation are dedicated to continuing and broadening our support of local organizations and important local initiatives across D.C., particularly in the critical areas of workforce development and economic opportunity, education, health & wellness and sustainability.” (my emphasis)