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GED rates rise.

Every year, more teens attempt to join the ranks of Bill Cosby and Ruth Ann Minner, governor of Delaware, not as comedians or politicians but as GED recipients.

Reasons for the rise include more lenient regulations, the changing economy and large high schools. Twenty-nine states prohibit teens under 18 from the GED, but most are granting more exemptions for students such as those who are pregnant or incarcerated.

The trend troubles some experts because some studies show that GED recipients earn less money in their lifetime than high school graduates. Urban Institute economist Duncan Chaplin explains, "There are few jobs where academics don't matter."

Historically, dropouts turned to high-paying Factory jobs, but the jobs have been exported overseas. Today's dropouts have limited options and may take the GED sooner rather than later, says Joan Auchter, executive director of GED Testing Service.

Thomas Lasley, dean of the school of education at the University of Dayton, hypothesizes that GED recipients' chances of securing a post-secondary education are lower. But Auchter counters that most colleges and universities accept GED recipients. She admits their life circumstances like finances might make it difficult to complete a post-secondary education.

Lasley believes the GED is attractive because high school doesn't meet teenagers' mentoring and guidance needs. He says the eight-period day, high stakes testing and negative peer interactions in a regular school setting create an alienating environment.

Testing opponents claim high stakes exams also drive teens out of school and to the GED, and Florida data seems to support this idea. Manhattan Institute research indicates exit exams have no effect on graduation rates, and Chaplin claims the Florida spike in GEDs could be a temporary phenomenon.

Accountability measures are a disincentive to retain problematic, low-achieving students--by stressing test scores over graduation rates, Chaplin says. The No Child Left Behind law could exacerbate this mid encourage schools to push low-scoring students into GED programs. Holding schools more accountable for graduation rates could prevent tiffs, be says.

Auchter encourages schools to better understand why students leave school by holding exit interviews with dropouts, enabling schools to design programs to better meet local needs.
GED Rates

Number of people who earned high school
equivalency based on GED tests

1971 227,000
2001 648,000

Source: National Center for Education Statistics
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Title Annotation:Update: education news from schools, businesses, research and government agencies; General Education Development
Author:Fratt, Lisa
Publication:District Administration
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2004
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