G.E.D. Not Equivalent to High School Diploma
So what if less than 70 percent of our high school students graduate. Many of those dropouts go back to get a "GED." They are high school graduates too; they just take longer to learn. Research says otherwise.
Some students think that the GED will lead to a job equal in pay to other high school graduates, open the door to college, and be just as good as a high school diploma for getting into the military. Research shows that each of these ideas is wrong. The GED may actually encourage students who are struggling with coursework to drop out of high school.
The GED is issued based on an 8-hour subject-based test that claims to be equivalent to traditional high school in content and rigor. In 2008, nearly 500,000 dropouts took and passed the test nationwide. This is about 12 percent of the high school credentials given that year. In Kansas, only 3,102 students received GEDs last year. Kansas has a lower per capita rate of GED-taking.
In the National Bureau of Economic Research article No. 16064, The GED, authors Heckman, Humphries, and Mader researched the academic literature on the GED. They found "minimal value of the certificate in terms of labor market outcomes...." In other words, GED recipients usually had a low income similar to those who never graduated from high school.
GED students going to college fared no better: "...only a few individuals successfully use it as a path to obtain post-secondary credentials."
Why is a test that is purported to be as rigorous as high school failing to certify students who can actually perform as well as regular high school graduates? The researchers found: "Although the GED establishes cognitive equivalence on one measure of scholastic aptitude, recipients still face limited opportunity due to deficits in non-cognitive skills such as persistence, motivation and reliability."
In plain language, four years of high school also teaches you to show up on time, day-after-day, and follow through until you get the job done. Simply, seat time and the high school experience, does count.
The military knows this. "Tier 1" candidates are those with traditional high school diplomas. GEDs (along with online school "diplomas") are ranked as "Tier 2." According to a feature in the March 7 Pittsburgh Tribune-Review linked to Education Week, reporter Amy Crawford found military recruiters limited admissions from "Tier 2" students: Army and National Guard (10%); the Navy (5%); and the Air Force (1%).
The GED (which is only offered in the U.S. and Canada) may actually be the reason some students decide to drop out. Again, Heckman and his fellow researchers found: "...through its availability and low cost, the GED also induces some students to drop out of school."
So if students believe they can make as much money, or succeed just as well in technical school or college with a GED, this belief gives them a way to rationalize dropping out in the short term. If they knew they would still likely earn as little as other high school dropouts, or that their chance of succeeding in post-secondary school was far less, or their admission to the military is limited, more students might stay in high school and get a diploma.