Guest Blog by Chandra Kring Villanueva
Commentary by Lavanya Madhusudan, Policy Research Analyst
Not every student has the opportunity to complete high school. Yet most job opportunities that pay a living wage or start individuals on a career path require a high school diploma. Sooner or later, individuals who were unable to obtain a high school diploma find themselves in need of this important credential. It is a first step towards economic mobility, financial security and professional success.
The following story highlights the incredible impact that obtaining this essential credential can have on one individual. This story is shared with permission from Chandra Villanueva, a fellow member of the Working Poor Families Project, which is a national initiative focused on state workforce development policies.
Earlier this month JOTF released a new report exploring the workforce development landscape in Prince George’s County. While the county is faring well in many respects, local workers face a unique mix of challenges, with educational gaps at the top of the list. Our report frames and qualifies these challenges, providing the context for what we hope will be a collaborative effort to identify and implement solutions.
Prince George’s County is part of a thriving regional economy, and the County’s $70,715 median income reflects this. Some of the overall statistics on the county can be deceiving, however, as they mask significant regional disparities. Communities inside the Capital Beltway have much higher rates of unemployment and poverty, for example.
In just a few months the current General Educational Development tests will expire and be replaced with new exams. The 2014 GED test will be aligned with the Common Core standards that are now required in K-12 school systems across the country, and many in the field expect that the tests will become more rigorous. The test, which has traditionally been offered via paper and pencil, will also shift to being offered only by computer.
Since we first blogged about the issue last year, a lot of progress has been made toward answering key questions about the changes and plotting the course for providers working in the field. First, after the GED Testing Service announced that they would be raising the cost of the test to $120, many feared that low-income students would be priced out. To address the issue, the Maryland General Assembly approved funding to subsidize the cost for Maryland test-takers at the current rate of $45. As long as the subsidy remains in place, it will go a long way toward preserving accessibility of the GED test.
At the Job Opportunities Task Force we take a lot of pride in our JumpStart program, a construction training course designed to improve the skills and employability of Baltimoreans who lack the necessary abilities to land high-wage jobs. Each year dozens of residents graduate from the program, but we’ve recently realized there are significant numbers of people who are not afforded this opportunity because they lack basic math skills and cannot pass our screening exam.
In 2011, the GED came under new management. The American Council on Education (ACE), who had been operating the test as a non-profit program, formed a partnership with the testing service Pearson. Together they created the GED Testing Service, which will now operate the GED as a for-profit venture.