Although nearly 20 percent of students entering certificate programs have a GED or equivalency, much smaller percentages of students beginning postsecondary education in two- or four-year institutions have a GED or equivalency certificate. About 2 percent and 7 percent of students entering four-year and two-year institutions, respectively, have a GED.
Since 15 to 20 percent of all high school credentials issued at that time were GEDs, this indicates that relatively few GED recipients go on to postsecondary academic education. This pattern is consistent with research that contrasts the relatively large numbers of adult education students who report planning to pursue college degrees with the small numbers who actually enter or complete postsecondary academic programs. Boesel and colleagues concluded that the grades of GED recipients who do enter postsecondary education are roughly comparable to those of students entering with high school diplomas.
GED recipients' grades are initially lower during the first year of enrollment but rise to statistically comparable levels over time perhaps, as Boesel and colleagues suggest, as the less able GED recipients are weeded out. The GPA ratios of the two groups rise from 0. Some research indicates less persistence and degree completion among GED recipients in colleges than among students with high school diplomas. Boesel and colleagues argue that this difference is not a causal "result" of GED certification but rather of other long-established predisposing factors such as single-parent status and age-delayed entry.
The BPS data can again shed some additional light on these issues. Overall, 63 percent of all beginning postsecondary students either attain a degree or are still enrolled and pursuing one five years after entry. The overall rate is much higher for students entering with high school diplomas 65 percent than with GEDs 40 percent.
Interestingly, there is no significant difference between the two groups' persistence rates from certificate less than two-year institutions. The highest persistence rates occur among students entering four-year institutions and the lowest rates for students entering two-year institutions. The biggest difference between the persistence rates of the two groups of students occurs in two-year institutions rather than in four-year institutions.
It is difficult to determine whether this pattern results from the tendency of four-year schools to be more selective than two-year schools and to deny admission to students at risk for whatever reason of not completing programs successfully. This was suggested in Figure 4. Perhaps only the more skilled students are admitted on the basis of college admission test scores, for example. To explore whether GED recipients in postsecondary education encounter more literacy-related problems than their peers with high school diplomas, I compared the relative experience of the two groups with remedial courses.
It is clear that students with the GED are much more likely 22 percent versus 15 percent to participate in remedial courses while in postsecondary education. The same pattern is evident for remedial reading, writing, and math courses. Although they have passed the GED tests, designed to certify their mastery of the skills and knowledge that high school graduates bring, the former adult education students may not be as well prepared for postsecondary education as students entering with regular high school diplomas. Additional research is needed to clarify the differences in skill sets that may be involved and to identify other factors that could be contributing to their different postsecondary experiences.
Other factors may be at work here as well. The two groups differ markedly in SES percentile rankings. In sharp contrast with the slight difference noted between the mean SES percentile rankings of postsecondary students who do and do not participate in developmental education, there is a substantial difference between the SES percentiles of the GED and high school diploma groups: 35 versus This difference undoubtedly is partly responsible for the observed differences between the two groups' persistence rates.
At the same time, among students who manage to stay in school, SES differences appear not to influence their overall academic performance: the cumulative GPAs of the two groups are both 2.
Further research is needed to understand better the differential influences of these factors on academic performance and persistence. An extensive set of support programs has emerged in postsecondary institutions for teaching many of the literacy skills that have traditionally been taught in adult basic and secondary education programs. This number could be up to twice as large if, as some have suggested, students underreport their participation in such courses.
There are some promising signs that these developmental courses support successful postsecondary learning outcomes; 10 percent of students nationwide receiving bachelor's degrees reported taking a remedial basic skills course. Given that the standard of living is increasing in our society only for college graduates, the importance of improving the basic skills of postsecondary students seems clear enough. Nevertheless, there are major problems to be addressed and important issues that must be resolved in order to provide more effective literacy education for postsecondary students and adults in other settings.
First, the broadening of access to postsecondary education and the provision of basic skills courses to college students remain controversial and politically uncertain goals in many venues. The finding that relatively few of the adult literacy students who obtain a GED eventually enroll in postsecondary education given the large number who express an interest in doing so is a clear concern. Even more troubling are the findings that the GED holders who do enroll have dramatically lower rates of persistence and completion within postsecondary programs.
These data reflect problematic discontinuities between basic skills instruction in the adult education and postsecondary systems, as well as discontinuities between counseling, financial assistance, and other student services provided in the two systems. Such discontinuities impede the longer-term learning trajectories that adults need to follow to acquire both the literacy skills and the postsecondary degrees that they need. To develop policies and programs that more effectively support learner progress both within and across the adult education and postsecondary education systems, a number of key policy and program issues need attention.
Better theory, information, and research about adult learning and education will likely be needed to address these issues. Let us consider some implications of these results for theory and research in adult learning and literacy as well as for improved policy and practice in adult literacy education. Implications for Policy and Practice Despite the increasing overlap between the populations of adult education and remedial postsecondary students, surprisingly little attention has been given to developing systematic programmatic and policy bridges between the two systems.
Five-year state plans developed thus far for implementing the Workforce Investment Act WIA of have either totally overlooked coordination between adult education and remedial postsecondary education or paid scant lip-service to it. This is surprising, given that the WIA regulations recognize transition into postsecondary education as a positive outcome and require explicit coordination between adult literacy training and other services.
Although there are some interesting programmatic exceptions some noted below , the need to forge such linkages apparently has not yet been widely perceived. Following are some recommendations on policy and programmatic issues that need careful attention:. Support learning paths from adult education into postsecondary education. Given the increasingly intertwined pathways of adult education, postsecondary education, and work, more coordination in the design and implementation of basic skills programs across these sectors is needed.
We will be unable to meet the national education goal or provide the skills that adults need to move out of poverty if we do not create more easily traversed pathways from adult education into postsecondary education.
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In particular, there must be more effective types of counseling as well as financial and academic support for GED students and recipients wishing to go on for postsecondary degrees. Better transition support, delivered in a learner-centered fashion, could reduce the burden carried by learners, who already face enough difficulties, in navigating and integrating a highly fragmented and complex system. Advance the goal of adult education from high school equivalency to college preparation.
Too many students who obtain a GED or other equivalency certification apparently are not sufficiently well prepared to succeed in college. The discontinuities between adult and postsecondary education appear to be barriers to their success. Although not all adult education students may wish or choose to go to college, a more seamless learner-centered system is needed for those who do.
Yet why should the target of adult education programs be high school completion rather than college readiness? There are important issues to resolve in forging such bridge programs. Where should they be located primarily on campuses, for example, or primarily in separate locations , how should they be financed through federal adult education funds, for example, or through tuition dollars , and who should teach these programs?
Make postsecondary and adult education teachers and administrators more familiar with each other's programs. There are many compelling reasons for practitioners in developmental secondary education and adult education to familiarize themselves with each other's programs. These are the educators who must design and build the bridges across the current gaps between the two systems.
In most cases, the systems operate independently of each other, even on campuses where both remedial postsecondary and adult education classes are offered. As literacy educators working in one of the settings become more familiar with the learners, instructional models, resources, and problems of programs in the other setting, they will be better prepared to design and implement more effective bridges between programs.
There are currently both important similarities and differences between these programs. Grubb and Kalman describe the variety of remedial programs in subbaccalaureate institutions especially community colleges and point out similarities between developmental education in these institutions and other forms of adult basic skills education, such as high rates of attrition and apparent low levels of student motivation.
Other common issues can be seen as well: low and uncertain levels of program funding; rumors of ineffectiveness; teacher issues, including lack of certification and reliance on part-time rather than full-time personnel; the marginality of learners, teachers, and programs; and poorly defined articulation with other programs. There are other features that differentiate the two types of programs and keep them apart. College students taking remedial basic skills courses, for example, generally pay tuition for these classes but do not receive degree credit for them, whereas students in federally funded adult education courses receive similar instruction and assistance free of charge.
Encourage closer linkages between practitioners and professional organizations in adult education and developmental education. Practitioners currently working in the two types of programs generally belong to distinct professional organizations, have different professional identities, attend separate conferences, and read different journals. It would be helpful if these organizations jointly sponsored professional development activities and occasional publications directed to both memberships.
Such joint activities could be a productive way to forge closer linkages between these two largely separate worlds of practice that find themselves serving increasingly overlapping populations of learners. More effective sharing of resources, instructional strategies and materials, and problem-solving techniques will benefit everyone, especially the students desiring more seamless learning paths leading from adult education to postsecondary education.
Share expertise across programs and settings on adult learning and literacy development. To a considerable extent, practitioners in the two settings have developed complementary expertise and approaches to adult literacy education. Adult educators have a great deal of experience with outreach and delivery models that relate to diverse individual learner goals and contexts. Instructional models have been developed specifically for delivery in workplace and family settings, for example.
A range of contextualized or "functional context" models has emerged that draw on the interests, needs, and goals of individual adult learners Sticht, These adult education models attempt to build linkages between basic skills instruction and other personal, work, family, and community contexts of interest to learners. Developmental educators in postsecondary programs, on the other hand, have tried to create models that build contextual linkages between basic skills instruction and other academic content areas and courses.
A variety of these embedded rather than detached models of remedial basic skills instruction have emerged.
Thus there are models available in each domain that can be valuable resources for practitioners who are trying to bridge these two worlds of basic skills education. Important pedagogical principles shared by educators in the two domains can inform the design and implementation of these bridge programs.
The central importance of learning communities, for example, is emphasized by theorists in both camps see, for example, Street, , and Tinto, The concepts of critical thinking for example, Chaffee, , and Sticht, and contextualized learning are also widely shared.
Develop better techniques for assessing the relative cost-effectiveness of different program models. There is growing need in both adult education and developmental postsecondary education to assess the impact of instructional programs on learner outcomes. Analysts have looked closely at both adult education programs Sticht, and remedial secondary programs Astin, ; Grubb, and have concluded that current data collection efforts and program evaluation methods cannot provide reliable measures of program impact on participants' basic skill gains or on other workplace or higher education outcomes.
A renewed commitment to addressing the difficult assessment and program evaluation issues involved is needed. Closely coordinate state policy and law with federal policy and initiatives. Lewis and Farris , using data from the National Survey on Remedial Education in Higher Education Institutions conducted in , reported that state laws or policies affect remedial offerings in about one-third of the postsecondary institutions.
Typically such policies either require or encourage institutions to offer remedial education. About one in four institutions reported time limits on remedial course offerings set by either institutional policy or state policy or law. Many institutions experience external directives restricting their ability to design and implement remedial programs effectively.
Conflicts arise frequently between institutional practice, state law or policy, and federal policy and initiatives in developmental education.
One issue that has not yet received much attention concerns the huge financial stakes involved with accreditation, tuition, and student financial aid as related to developmental education. Under current law and regulations, students matriculated in academic programs are eligible for Pell grants and student loans and pay tuition dollars for any remedial courses they take, but they receive no credit toward a degree for these courses. If the same students were to take basic skills courses through federally funded adult education programs, they would pay no tuition and again receive no degree credit for those courses.
There are thus high financial stakes involved in changes in state policy affecting remedial education. When state university systems, for example, are discouraged from offering remedial education, many institutions can be heavily affected in financial terms as programs and students move to other institutions, such as community colleges or proprietary schools. To get a sense of scale, consider these examples reported by the American Council on Education :.