Unemployment Rate For Those Without a High School Diploma Ticks Higher in Latest Jobs Report

The Wall Street Journal published a helpful set of charts to go along with the BLS jobs report released last Friday. One of the charts breaks down the unemployment rate by educational background.

August Jobs Report

Not surprisingly, workers with the most education consistently have the lowest unemployment rate. What’s interesting to me about the latest BLS report is the big jump in the rate for those without a high school diploma (or equivalent): almost a full percentage point from the previous month (6.3 percent to 7.2 percent). It will be interesting to see in the months ahead whether that’s an anomaly or a growing trend.

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.

Los Angeles Public Library to Offer High School Equivalency Program

AP reporter Julie Watson reports that the Los Angeles Public Library will be partnering with educational publisher Cengage Learning to offer a high school diploma program for adults and out-of-school youth—reportedly the first time a public library system has offered such a program. The library hopes to grant high school diplomas to 150 adults in the first year.

According to Watson, the library’s director, John Szabo, has already introduced 850 online courses for continuing education and  a program that helps immigrants complete the requirements for U.S. citizenship.

It ail be interesting to see how this all plays out. It’s clear from Cengage’s press release that they expect to bring the program to other public libraries across the country.

It also marks the entry of Cengage Learning into the high school equivalency credential market.