About two-thirds of high school dropouts continue their education and obtain a high school credential within eight years of their scheduled graduation date. The majority obtain a General Educational Development (GED) certificate rather than a high school diploma. Unfortunately, labor market outcomes for GED holders are much worse than for high school graduates, and few of those who pass the GED obtain even one year of postsecondary education or training.
When dropouts do continue their education, it is generally through adult education or GED preparation programs that operate in schools, community-based organizations, or community colleges. However, since few of these programs (even those that operate on community college campuses) are well linked to postsecondary programs, the GED often marks the end of these students’ education, with recipients facing long odds of success in a labor market that offers few good opportunities to young people with no postsecondary education or training.
To better understand how adult education programs might strengthen pathways to college and careers, MDRC, with financial support from the Robin Hood Foundation and MetLife Foundation, partnered with LaGuardia Community College of the City University of New York to conduct a rigorous study of LaGuardia’s GED Bridge to Health and Business program. The GED Bridge program represented a promising new approach to GED instruction, as it aimed to better prepare students not only to pass the GED exam but also to continue on to college and training programs. The evaluation results were highly encouraging: One year after enrolling in the program, Bridge students were far more likely to have completed the course, passed the GED exam, and enrolled in college than students in a more traditional GED preparation course. MDRC is now testing a similar “contextualized” GED program in Wisconsin at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College.
In January 2014, New York State selected a new high school equivalency test to replace the GED as the primary pathway to a high school equivalency diploma. LaGuardia’s Bridge to College and Careers Program, like its GED Bridge program, uses a contextualized, career-focused curriculum to prepare students for the state’s high school equivalency test.