GED doesn't help

Passing the GED (General Educational Development) does little to help dropouts earn more or go on to college, a new University of Chicago study finds.  Worse, the availability and low cost of the GED may induce some students to drop out of school.

In 2008, GEDs made up 12 percent of all high school credentials, notes Curriculum Matters.

“The GED is not harmless,” says the study. “Treating it as equivalent to a high school degree distorts social statistics and gives false signals that America is making progress when it is not.”

. . . “We show that noncognitive deficits such as lack of persistence, low self-esteem, low self-efficacy, and high propensity for risky behavior explain the lack of success for many GEDs,” the report says. “Deficits of what are sometimes called ‘soft skills’ are often not taken into account in public policy discussions involving economic opportunity.”

Depressing news.

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Comments

  1. Depressing news? I’d say it’s another data point in support of my contention that the public education system is institutionally indifferent to educational outcomes.

  2. I think most of these post-dropout studies confuse causation with correlation, if not in the studies themselves, then in the minds of the reporters or readers who attempt to interpret the studies.

    E.g. to what degree is the lack of a high school degree really responsible for higher rates of drug abuse, incarceration, and lower incomes? Wouldn’t it make more sense to focus on the underlying conditions that lead to high dropout rates, such as learning disabilities or bad schools?

    I wouldn’t expect earning a GED to change the underlying problems that led to dropping out of school in the first place.

  3. The assumption that lack of a HS degree causes (whatever poor outcomes) also ignores the fact that (a) some kids are not really capable college-prep work, despite the mantra that everyone should go to college, (b) some kids are simply not academically inclined and would do better in a solid vocational program, which usually doesn’t exist because of the insistence that everyone must take a college-prep program and (c) some kids aren’t interested enough to put in the effort to learn. Better preparation in ES and MS would undoubtedly help, but requiring uninterested HS students to stick around (likely spreading their bad attitude/causing trouble) until they are 18 is counterproductive.

  4. Generally, my students who drop out began the pattern of drug use and incarceration in middle school. There’s a relationship between the two, but it is more reciprocal than causal/correlation. Their education up to that point has been high quality enough (sometimes I’m amazed at how much kids learn even when they’re trying hard not to) that we can shove them through the GED and not take the hit to our graduation rate.

    I’ve seen the GED be a godsend for other kids who just couldn’t tolerate school for whatever reason. These types of kids end up doing fine — some eventually went on to college, others have their own businesses, etc.

  5. Cranberry says:

    ‘”We show that noncognitive deficits such as lack of persistence, low self-esteem, low self-efficacy, and high propensity for risky behavior explain the lack of success for many GEDs,” the report says. “Deficits of what are sometimes called ’soft skills’ are often not taken into account in public policy discussions involving economic opportunity.” ‘

    I suppose I’m slow on the uptake. How would removing the GED from the world change those “noncognitive deficits?” Will more time in high school remedy lack of persistence, low self-esteem, low self-efficacy, and high propensity for risky behavior?

    Isn’t the GED an example of the sort of certification with which Charles Murray would replace the BA?

  6. California has another HS equivalent which is a tad more rigorous (it’s really for kids who just want to skip high school.) The CHSPE (http://www.chspe.net/) is for kids 16 and older who want to stop going to school, for whatever reason. My son took it because he’d been an AFS student in Hungary for his Sr. year. I made my daughter take it, just to see. They both passed, but she finished high school.

    The GED in California is, to my mind, worthless.

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