As the military accepts more high school drop-outs, it’s helping recruits pass their GED to qualify for service. The Pennsylvania National Guard offers an intensive course for recruits who enlisted in high school but didn’t complete a diploma, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The three-week course, also open to recruits from other states, goes beyond the classroom. Privates get up at 4:45 a.m. daily for physical training, spend nine hours in classes, have a study hall in the evening and also learn boot camp-type skills like making a bed.

It’s not your typical high school classroom: As either a civilian or military teacher leads instruction, a drill sergeant is also present.

More than 85 of the 120 privates who’ve taken the Guard’s GED classes have passed the test since March.

More than 13,000 recruits have earned GEDs through Education Plus, started by the Army and the National Guard in 2005. Only 73 percent of new soldiers were high school graduates in 2006, down from 90 percent in 2004. The Army’s goal is 90 percent. Non-graduates must earn a GED.

Education Gadfly wonders if educators will analyze the Guard’s intensive classes for ideas on working with potential drop-outs. Do they need drill sergeants?

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  1. This is not a new development. The Army also did this in the late 70s.

    The Army knows that soldiers with GEDs are less likely to complete their enlistments than high school graduates. Long ago, it was my understanding that GED soldiers were not significantly different than drop outs in the retention statistics. I think we must be getting desperate.

    These recruits have already started or finished their basic training and are already in the habit of obeying and respecting authority. They probably did not have this attitude in high school.

    Do you think public school teachers will ever have anything like the Uniform Code of Military Justice to back them up? Malingering and anything prejudicial to good order and discipline can be a Court Martial offense. Disrespecting, insulting or assaulting an instructor, after the instructor vigorously defends them self, could lead to a prison sentence. Courts Martial have a very high conviction rate, over 90%. Non judicial punishment is less severe, but more immediate and can be very unpleasant. In the Army an instructor is supposed to be a leader not just a trainer. Do you think schools of education and teacher’s unions will allow the armed forces to teach how they make effective instructors?

    This is a kind of boarding school situation that others have been suggesting.

  2. Pat McGee says:

    One of the reasons this program succeeds is that students have a very specific goal and they have a good “carrot” to succeed. Much of this I am sure comes from having a focus they did not have in regular high school.
    There is also buy-in because this program is a privilege, not a right. There is also a tremendous disincentive if you fail.

  3. Walter E. Wallis says:

    I was a GED recruit and I did rather well, including the 2 year college GED. I was also a military instructor and did rather well. But then that’s just me.
    Is Jerry Brown’s academy at the Oakland Army Base still going and still cranking out grads?
    Perhaps without compulsion but the requirement that if you aren’t in school you have to have a job might work.

  4. Yes, the Oakland Military Institute is still going strong–and has sent at least one graduate to West Point now.

    Its location is moving, but the school survives.

  5. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Finally, a Brown idea pays off.

  6. Perhaps students should be required to enlist if they drop out of HS?

  7. Funny how suddenly “test prep” is respectable. That’s all the course is.

  8. Cal,

    You perfectly described the Army’s approach in the 70s.

  9. Walter E. Wallis says:

    The Army no longer needs yardbirds. Warrior is a profession with professional requirements.