The High School Equivalency Journey

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This past summer, we celebrated the graduation of 18 hardworking, dedicated GED students. But what does the path to high school equivalency look like? Let’s take a look at the quantitative breakdown of educational attainment in the United States, the challenges in achieving high school equivalency, and the step-by-step process of how it’s obtained. Specifically, we will highlight high school equivalency through the GED testing process.

THE NUMBERS

In the DFW metroplex, 1 in 4 adults do not have a high school diploma or equivalent. On a broader scale, 13 percent of the US population over 25 years old—nearly 28 million individuals—has no high school diploma or equivalent. Failure to obtain education beyond a high school level is linked to a host of other socioeconomic burdens, such as poverty, decreased political participation, incarceration, or unemployment. For example, a high school dropout will earn $200,000 less than a high school graduate over a lifetime, and nearly one million dollars less than a college graduate. Simply stated, without a high school education, many individuals are bound to an uphill battle. 

AN UNEVEN PLAYING FIELD

In most cases, adults seeking out their GED are already “behind” in education and income levels by today’s standards and the fast-paced, competitive job market. For the most part, these adults will have low wages (close to, or below, poverty level), will reside in neighborhoods which lack the abundance of resources that wealthier neighborhoods possess, and have “lower” skills, which will ultimately inhibit their ability to seek out the resources that are readily available for people in need (i.e financial literacy classes, childcare, ABE/HSE, etc.). 

So, the adults that manage to access these resources are already “ahead of the curve” for their position, albeit behind in their economic and educational needs to climb out of poverty. Nevertheless, the student’s journey is contingent on their previous backgrounds, which often includes, but is not limited to: high school dropouts, formerly incarcerated individuals or immigrants. When an individual cannot recognize and access the tools to pull themselves up by the bootstraps, poverty remains an inescapable, cyclical force.

Step I: Placement

The first step onto the path of earning one’s GED in Dallas is usually the most difficult: arriving on site to the Aberg Center to take the Comprehensive Adult Student Assessment Systems, or CASAS, test.

CASAS is a nonprofit organization that provides assessments of basic skills for youth and adults and curricular tools to target instruction. The CASAS assessments are validated and approved by many education and government agencies including the US Department of Labor and the US Department of Education.

There are many CASAS assessments which include, but are not limited to: Math, Reading, and Writing; said subject tests are the specific assessments our GED students take for their placement. The results of their CASAS tests will determine the placement of the student in one of the following levels—I, II, or III—with III being the most prepared to take their GED subject tests.

Step 2: Classes

Following their placement, students will enroll in four classes per week, three hours each day. The students will study one specific subject for each day, alternating between the four main GED subjects: Science, Math, Language Arts and Social Studies. If students choose to do so, they can have a tutor come and work with them on a subject to improve their overall literacy with any subject of which they choose.

Step 3: GED Testing and Completion

Once a student feels ready, he or she will take the official GED practice tests (there are four tests in total—one for each subject) to assess the student’s retention of information on subject matter. If a student scores 145 or higher, the student will then decide to take the official tests at the Dallas Public Library. Once a student receives a 145 or higher on an official GED Test, they “pass” that specific subject.

In total each test costs $35. However, the Aberg Center Site Managers help students apply for a scholarship through the Dallas Public Library. This has helped many of our students have the ability to pass through the GED program.

Each subject has a different time limit to pass the specific subject test, yet there exists no time frame in which the student must pass all four GED subject exams. In other words, once an individual passes a specific test, the student can take as long as he or she needs to in passing the other tests.

In the event of the individual passing all four tests, the student officially becomes an Aberg Center GED Graduate!

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References

Cheeseman Day, Jennifer, and Eric C. Newburger. "The Big Payoff: Educational Attainment and Synthetic Estimates of Work-Life Earnings." United States Census Bureau. https://www.census.gov/prod/2002pubs/p23-210.pdf.

“Educational Attainment in the United States.” Statistical Atlas, Statistical Atlas, statisticalatlas.com/United-States/Educational-Attainment.