Sue Scheff: High School Diploma vs GED

Speaking with parents regularly, I hear this story frequently. Teenagers are dropping out of High School and getting a GED.  This has become more and more acceptable, however is it recommendable?  Personally, I believe there are some cases that it is the only way a person can finish school, but I think parents need to encourage the teen to stay in school. 

Years ago, we would never even consider dropping out of High School and gettting a GED.  As a matter of fact in my generation, it was frowned upon.  Today is a whole new generation. 

Here is a timely article with some parenting tips. 

teensextalkSource: Connect with Kids

How Valuable is a GED?

“If you get your high school diploma, you’re going to be better off.  If you get some college, you’re going to be better off.  If you get a bachelors degree, you’re going to be better off.”

– Martin Segura, Education Counselor.

The number of Americans taking the GED test is climbing, up 7 percent last year over the year before.  But compared to a high school degree, how valuable is a GED?  It’s an old and controversial question.

Tanya dropped out of high school after her sophomore year.  “That was my dream, to walk across that stage, but because I got pregnant, they told me I couldn’t go back,” recounts 18-year-old Tanya Sado.

By the time she was ready to go back, she was too old, so she decided to try another route.  Tanya decided to get her GED, or General Educational Development certificate.

“Well, you can’t find a good job without education,” Tanya says.  “What can you do with your life?”

The problem is, because of the recession and because so many more young people are attending college today, some educators argue that a GED has never been less valuable.

It’s not worthless, they say, but more today than ever, “If you get your high school diploma, you’re going to be better off.  If you get some college, you’re going to be better off.  If you get a bachelors degree, you’re going to be better off,” says education counselor, Martin Segura.

Today, unemployment rate for people without their high school diploma is over 15 percent.

“To the extent that students do not develop, um, those skills, don’t have those trainings, don’t have those degrees or credentials.  They’re headed for a very difficult, a brutal collision path where they’re going to end up with leftover jobs, jobs that nobody else wants,” explains Hector Madrigal, Director of Pupil Services in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

The GED just doesn’t have the value it once did.  Even the military agrees.  “The job market in general in today’s society is extremely difficult to get into.  Any job that you go to, you know most of them want you to have at least high school, some college,” explains Staff Sergeant Matthew Jacobs of the U.S. Marine Corps.  “Well Marines, we’re just another job like everybody else.  We’re looking for the same qualifications.”

Tanya’s advice to other kids?  “I would say don’t leave, don’t give it up for anything.”

Tips for Parents

While it’s easy to place the blame on a child when he or she drops out of school, it doesn’t address the most important problem:  What can be done to educate this student?  The National Mental Health and Education Center offers the following hints to help parents on the road to problem-solving:

  • Focus on student goals: Instead of focusing on why your child is unsuccessful in school, have your child identify what he or she wants to get from the school experience.  Have him or her list school, home and personal barriers to reaching that goal.  Sometimes talking about getting past the barriers to reaching a goal helps focus efforts more productively than just complaining or quitting.
  • Encourage school involvement:  Encourage your child to attend school regularly and to be involved in at least one extracurricular activity at school or with groups of students who are currently in school.  These activities make your child feel like part of the group, important to the school and more motivated to perform in order to participate.  If your child’s lack of academic success restricts him or her from every activity except academics, your child often sees no value in continuing to try.  He or she must have something positive to look forward to that will meet the kinship/companionship needs of being a teen.  If your child isn’t able to meet these needs in the school setting, he or she often finds ways to meet these needs in less desirable settings and groups.
  • Consider alternative school settings:  Speak with the school counselor and/or school psychologist to see if your child’s goals can be reached in the current school environment.  If not, have the school identify ideas for alternative settings for your child’s learning.  Include your child in all discussions with school personnel.  If you investigate alternative education settings, have your child make the contacts and visits, complete forms and ask questions.  He or she must see that personal responsibility is a must when being asked to be treated as an adult.
  • Consider realistic postsecondary goals:  Don’t get hung up on the issue of your child going to college. The more important question is “What does my child find interesting, and what is he or she good at?” and “Which of these skill areas is marketable?”  If attending college is the way to reach the vocational goal, set steps in place to get there.  In many cases, a postsecondary technical training or two-year community college program is more appropriate to meet your child’s goals and get him or her employable.
  • Consider the GED:  This equivalency examination is very well-respected among employers and higher education institutions.  Students can study for this examination through community education programs, alternative education programs or independently.  The point is to stress to your child that the diploma or GED is only the first step to finishing his or her education.  The workforce of tomorrow will require postsecondary education for even entry-level jobs.
  • Identify special needs:Consult with school personnel to determine if your child might have a specific learning or behavior problem interfering with learning.  Low achievement, retention in grade and behavioral difficulties are highly predictive of dropping out of school.  Assessment of possible learning and behavior problems might help identify special services to help your child find school more successful.

References

  • American Council on Education
  • GED Testing Service
  • National Mental Health and Education Center
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