Professional Wisdom and GED Completer College-Readiness
As the demand for a more educated workforce escalates, completers of the General Education Development (GED) examinations increasingly access higher education and postsecondary training opportunities through community colleges. Like other nontraditional students, GED completers often do not have the academic skills necessary to successfully persist and complete either a college degree or an occupational certificate. While GED completers clearly have the expectation, and professional wisdom suggests, that their credential can prepare them for college entry, a review of the literature reveals no research-based studies that discuss whether or not the current version of the GED can be used for determining college-readiness.
The purpose of the GED, according to the GED Testing Service, is to measure the major academic skills and knowledge associated with a high school program of study. When preparing students who wish to attend college, teachers of adult education classes across Texas and elsewhere, lack empirical data upon which to base their practice and resultantly must lean exclusively on professional wisdom. They have little choice but to base their practice on the belief that since the GED credential is roughly equivalent to a high school diploma, doing well at some level on the GED can indicate a student is prepared for college entry. To develop further insights into what college-readiness means for their students, they likely look to their own college experiences, refer to local college core curricula, and build on the past outcomes of their students who have entered and attempted to succeed in the college environment.
In Texas, college-readiness is clearly defined. Our state legislature’s Texas Success Initiative establishes certain standard assessment benchmarks that students must achieve to be considered college-ready. For instance, a student must score at least 81 out of a possible 99 on the ACT Computer-Adaptive Placement Assessment and Support System (COMPASS) Reading Placement Test to be considered college-ready in the learning domain of Reading. In Mathematics, a student must score at least 71 out of a possible score of 99 on the COMPASS Algebra Test. There are no equivalent GED scores that are accepted for college-readiness at any Texas community colleges or other postsecondary institutions.
To explore how GED scores might be predictive and to derive a sense of what GED scores might indicate college-readiness in the domains of Reading and Mathematics, a study was conducted using data from completers of the current version of the GED who were enrolled at Houston Community College in semester credit hour college classes during the 2006 calendar year. While the results of the study should be generalized only with some caution, they do add to the field’s sense of what constitutes college-readiness for GED completers. In addition, the results provide the beginnings of a base of research against which professional wisdom on the topic can be compared. The research referenced in the remainder of this article is derived from a study conducted as part of a doctoral dissertation regarding the usefulness of the current version of the GED as an indicator of college-readiness. The full study and its results can be seen at viking.coe.uh.edu/~djoost/Dissertation/Joost%20Dissertation%20FINAL.doc. This is a Microsoft® Word document.
Statistical analysis of the scores of the two tests confirm that GED scores are positively linked to COMPASS Test scores at a significant level. This means that under the study’s conditions, GED scores can meaningfully predict COMPASS scores with some measure of reliability. This finding confirms the intuition of Adult Education teachers who believe that a student’s score on the GED can be predictive of whether or not that student is ready to succeed in college. Accepting that GED scores are meaningfully linked of COMPASS scores and therefore can provide a sense of a student’s college-readiness, the next question logically becomes, “What GED scores concord to the COMPASS Tests’ college-readiness scores?”
Using an equipercentile ranking methodology, the study determined that a score of 540 on the GED Reading Test concorded to a COMPASS Reading Placement Test’s college-readiness score of 71. However, in the domain of Mathematics, the equipercentile ranking procedure determined that a nearly perfect score of 790 was required on the GED Mathematics Test for a student to be considered college-ready. In fact, some of the 91 subjects in the sample had achieved perfect GED scores of 800 and were still unable to meet the college-readiness benchmark score set for the COMPASS Algebra Placement Test.
The findings of the study confirm existing professional wisdom in one sense, being that there is a GED Reading Test score that, when achieved by a student suggests the student is adequately prepared to successfully persist in college-level course work. However, the findings in the domain of Mathematics suggest that even a perfect score of 800 on the GED may not assure a student of being college-ready. This finding suggests that if adult education curricula are to be aligned with higher education curricula, there is clearly a gap that must be considered in the domain of Mathematics. To address this gap, we again look to the professional wisdom of skilled, experienced, and trained teachers to determine how to adapt college-core mathematics curricula to meet the needs of Adult Education students who desire to enroll in college. As in the instance, just described, it is not uncommon for research to follow and confirm professional wisdom and practice, in fact for the field of education it is the rule more than it is the exception.
Dr. David Joost is the Director of Adult Education Programs at Houston Community College, the state’s largest provider of adult education. This article draws significantly from his November 2008 dissertation, Comparing the General Education Development (GED) Tests to the ACT Computer-Adaptive Placement Assessment and Support System (COMPASS) Tests for Usefulness as Predictors for College- readiness.Sisters Push Each Other to Do the Extra Lap by Dora Espericueta The most rewarding teaching experience that I have had was the opportunity to teach two sisters that enrolled at the Pharr Adult Learning Center. While both sisters started at the pre-lit level, I did not start working with them until they were at the Pre-GED level. I started working with Elia first. She came to the Center with a very low self-esteem. She could barely make eye contact with me or anyone else. She was very soft spoken and shy. As her GED instructor, I was able to work with her on a one to one basis. Elia was able to express herself through her essays providing me the opportunity to feel her pain and depression. As time went by, it was obvious to everyone around her that she was gaining inner confidence. Her way of dressing, communicating, and physical appearance was so visible that you could see the metamorphosis from a cocoon to a beautiful butterfly. Her written thoughts and ideas helped me understand her more and allowed me to interact with her more freely. Working with her individually, allowed her to feel more comfortable in speaking or asking questions. Once she overcame her shyness, she became very determined to get her GED and set a goal to further her education. Eventually, Elia encountered transportation problems. Her only ride to class was her sister. Elia motivated Veronica to enroll so that she wouldn’t waste gas needlessly. By both of them attending, they could benefit from the program and better themselves at the same time. When her sister was promoted from the Pre-GED class to my GED class, I felt like this gave Elia more of an initiative or more self confidence. When her sister, Veronica, came into my writing class, it was like lighting a flame under both of them. I could see that they would work together and encourage and motivate each other. It was apparent to me that Veronica was different from Elia in many ways. She was more interactive, more sociable, and more approachable. This allowed me to use Veronica’s attributes to make Elia a stronger person. It was exciting to see that no matter what obstacles came their way, they both showed determination and dedication. Veronica was Elia’s only means of transportation and it was wonderful to see the family unity when it came to them having each other for support. I can honestly say that these two young ladies had to make many sacrifices and overcome many obstacles to achieve what they had set as their goal, to obtain their GED and enroll at South Texas College. Through perseverance they were able to achieve what they had both set out to do. They are both currently in their third semester at South Texas College and are well on their way to successful careers in Nursing and Education. About the Author Dora Espericueta is a native of Monte Alto, Texas. She is married to Robert and has three children. She has taught all areas of the adult education program. She holds a certification in Interdisciplinary Studies and Generic Special Education and has taught adult education for thirteen years. She is currently the Lead Instructor for the Pharr Adult Learning Center. Her passion is working with adults and motivating them to succeed.