New GED pilot program hopes to entice more Latino dropouts to take the test

LatinaLista — School may be out for the Christmas holidays but it’s already known that too many Latino students won’t be returning to school in the new year.

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The Pew Hispanic Center reports that 41 percent of Latinos ages 20 or older do not have a regular high school degree, compared with 23 percent of Blacks and 14 percent of Whites.

But what’s even worse news is that Latinos are least likely to get their GEDs.

Research shows that it doesn’t matter the citizenship status of the Latino student. Both undocumented and native-born are least likely to earn their GED as compared to white and black students.

Some experts attribute the disparity between Latino and white students pursuing their GEDs to how the program is marketed.

“We do not know precisely why,” Richard Fry, senior research associate at the Pew Hispanic, said. “I would speculate that school districts and community service organizations do not as effectively promote and recruit Hispanic dropouts into GED preparation programs as White dropouts.”

According to 2009 statistics from the GED testing service, the percentage of GED test-takers who are Latino stand at 20.1 percent while blacks account for 24.4 percent and whites are 50.5 percent.

Interestingly, the top five states with the highest volume of test-takers are: California, Texas, New York, Florida and Georgia. All states with either majority or sizable Latino populations.

The fact that Latino dropouts are less likely to pursue their GED creates a chilling scenario for the future of the nation’s economy. While reasons vary as to why Latino dropouts aren’t taking the GED — too busy with work, afraid of the English portion of the test, too busy with family responsibilities, undocumented, don’t see the need for it, etc. — it’s certain that without a GED life will be financially more difficult.

Earlier this month, MetLife Foundation awarded a $3 million grant to the GED Testing Service to update and modernize the GED test so that it is more relevant to test-takers.

The GED 21st Century Initiative features three high-impact outcomes: delivery of a new, more rigorous GED Test aligned with the Common Core State Standards that will certify college and career readiness; implementation of a national preparation program featuring customized instruction; and support for a transition network that connects test-takers to career and postsecondary opportunities.

The work begins with a pilot program with New York City’s District 79 focused on accelerated learning, which offers GED candidates the best possibility of achieving measurable gains in math and reading performance regardless of their initial proficiency level.

While the test sounds like it will be harder than the current test, it also sounds like it will work better with individual students by customizing their instruction, a big attraction for Latino students who too often say they feel invisible to educators and administrators.

Also, the new planned approach makes it certain that no student who has not mastered the skills set out in the new version of the test will pass — something the current educational system fails with Latino and black students.

“Our nation is making a commitment to define standards of college and career readiness, prepare all students to meet them, and regain international leadership in educational attainment,” said Dennis White, president and CEO of MetLife Foundation.

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