A GED Just Isn’t as Good

By Mary Ann Zehr — February 11, 2009 1 min read
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I can’t find references in “Grad Nation,” a new comprehensive guide for communities on how to combat the dropout crisis, to English-language learners, but the guide does point out that the dropout rate is high among Hispanics, many of whom are ELLs.

On average, the nation has a much lower graduation rate for ELLs than for all students, according to “Perspectives on a Population,” a spin-off publication from Quality Counts 2009. The graduation rate reported by states for ELLs is 64 percent versus 80.1 percent for all students. And Russell W. Rumberger, the director of the California Dropout Research Project, has told me that those rates reported by states are inflated. I reported on issues affecting whether ELLs stay in high school in “High School Credits for ELLs Still a Challenge,” published Jan. 28 in Education Week.

It seems that many of the recommendations in the 100-page “Grad Nation” guide would apply to ELLs. One that stood out to me was that educators should avoid “over-promoting GEDs.” The guide, commissioned by America’s Promise Alliance, says one study estimates that more than half of all dropouts eventually get a General Educational Development, or GED, certificate, which is an alternative to a high school diploma.

But educators of ELLs are wise to take note that a GED doesn’t serve a student as well as a regular high school diploma, according to “Grad Nation” (see page 19). People with a GED or another alternative certificate earn significantly less than those with a high school diploma. Only one in 10 GED holders earns a college degree, compared with one in four high school graduates.

“Grad Nation” says: “For dropouts, a GED is better than nothing, but for today’s students and for our communities, staying in school is the best choice by far.”

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.