The new workforce bill will make it easier for community colleges to teach basic skills and job skills at the same time. Federal rules have required high school dropouts to catch up academically before starting job training.
High school graduation rates are up to 80 percent, writes Terry Salinger on The Quick and the Ed. But the 20 percent who don’t earn a diploma face a much tougher — and more expensive — GED.
The General Education Development test (or GED) “now requires a new level of help that too few studying for the GED can get.”
The old test was a pencil and paper affair that took eight hours. The new one, the first update in more than a decade, streams in online and takes a couple of hours less. The old GED had familiar item types, like multiple choice and essays. The new one has new names: hot spot (graphic images with virtual “sensors” to plot coordinates or create models), drop-and-drag, short and long writing tasks, and cloze items (fill in the missing word).
Like the old one, the new GED assesses test-takers’ content knowledge but it also emphasizes their ability to reason in mathematics and language arts and to analyze and write about primary and secondary documents in social studies.
The new GED is aligned with Common Core standards, which are supposed to measure college readiness. (Career readiness too, but that’s an afterthought.) That sets the bar very high.
At $120, the new GED costs about twice as much.
Adult learners “need systematic, intensive, and sustained instruction by teachers with adult-learning expertise,” writes Salinger. But there’s a shortage of adult-learning teachers, classes — and dollars.
Adult charter schools offer one promising way to help more adult learners. Some of the 11 adult charter schools in Washington, DC, combine English language instruction with GED content. Two have child-development centers attached, so adult learners have close-by daycare and those aspiring to childcare careers can get some experience under their belts. In a few others, like Indianapolis and Austin, adult charter schools link to local career-training programs and colleges.
These programs offer “wraparound” social support needed by low-income students, Salinger adds. But few GED students get this kind of help.
If community colleges start turning away low achievers, there will be even more demand for adult learning centers for the 20 percent. And for the high school graduates who never really mastered high school skills.
Community colleges are reforming — or abolishing — remedial education, but some think remedial reforms have gone too far. They fear many students will be placed in college-level courses they can’t handle, while the least-prepared will be shut out of college programs and sent to adult ed.
A Pennsylvania community college has persuaded a local high school to teach the college’s remedial math and English courses to 12th graders. Ninety-two percent of the high school’s community college-bound graduates place into remedial reading and 100 percent place into remedial math, often at the lowest levels.
Adult classes in English aren’t helping immigrants (and some native-born English Language Learners) very much, concludes a Lexington Institute report. It’s believed only 40 percent of adult ESL improve their proficiency level.
While most adult ESL is taught at community colleges and school district adult education programs, Lexington advocates more flexible approaches being developed by community organizations, adult charter schools and employers.
For example, Los Angeles-based PUENTE Learning Center uses blended learning to individualize instruction and track student progress toward proficiency. The result is consistently lower drop-out rates and proficiency improvements than the national average. In one year (2005), fully 85% of learners advanced in proficiency compared to the national average of 40%.
Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School in Washington, DC is another example of a community-based program achieving strong results.
In addition, federal, state and local policymakers should gather “rigorous and useful data” and reward programs that accelerate language learning, Lexington recommends.
I’d bet more immigrants are going online to improve their English fluency. USA Learns, which is funded by the U.S. and California Education Departments, is free.
Pell Grant recipients, who come from lower-income families, often start college in remedial classes and drop out before earning a degree. Requiring evidence of college readiness, such as SAT scores of at least 850 (verbal and math) and a 2.5 grade point average in high school, would boost success rates, but limit access.
California leads the nation in poorly educated adults and in low-income workers, not a coincidence. Should community colleges take over adult education?
The remediation rate was nearly 80 percent for graduates of New York City public high schools who enrolled in community college last year.
Part-time adult education instructors at City Colleges of Chicago have agreed to link bonuses to student achievement. That just doesn’t happen at the college level.
State universities are pushing remedial classes to community colleges, and some community colleges are pushing low-level remediation to adult ed programs, I write in U.S. News.