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Getting a GED in Rhode Island

About 74,000 Rhode Islanders of working age (18-64) do not even have high school diplomas! How can these adults catch up, get the credentials they need to get better jobs -- or any job? They missed the chance to graduate before the age of 18, so now they may have a couple of children, speak English poorly, be stuck in low-paying jobs, have health issues, and lack of resources. They also have to find time to study. As of 2014, the GED must be taken online, so lack of computer skills is a serious obstacle for people who don't own a newer personal computer and don't have broadband access at home.

As if these problems are not enough for highly motivated people, let alone people who are discouraged, It turns out there are additional obstacles: They also have to find out: WHAT should they study? WHERE can they take courses? HOW LONG will they be on waiting lists for GED courses or waivers? WHERE do they get an extra $120 (assuming they pass each of the 4 sections of the GED test the first time) to take the GED test? In December 2014, there were 1300 Rhode Islanders on a GED waiting list -- it is not clear exactly what they are on a wait list for, but it seems to be for a fee waiver and maybe for courses. Dr. Philip Less of the RI Department of Education (RIDE) estimated it would cost $2 million to clear up the wait list of 1300 people(?) [Source: Governor's Workforce Board Adult Education and Literacy Committee minutes, September 23, 2014]

This is unacceptable!

Think about this (It's hard not to get mired in the statistical mud, but let's try to slog through this quickly): 74,000 working-age Rhode Islanders don't have high school diplomas so they are not prepared for high paying jobs. In 2013, there were 5,760 Rhode Islanders enrolled in adult education programs, presumably studying hard to pass the GED. [Source: Adult Education: Improving RI's Workforce.] IF they all pass by 2015, that would still leave 68,000+ working-age Rhode Islanders without GEDs (assuming that every high school junior and senior graduated in 2013 and 2014). The Providence Journal reported that "As of Dec. 30, 225 students had passed the entire test [during 2014], compared with 2,363 students during the previous year." At this rate, it will be decades before Rhode Island's workforce has a high rate of successful high school equivalency achievement.

I repeat, THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE!

Rather than spend time pointing out failures, let's see what can be done. My first reaction to beginning this search was highly critical of our leaders and educational professionals, but I'd much rather be constructive. I am sure that responsible people at RIDE, at nonprofits, and the General Assembly all want to do the best they can to help Rhode Islanders trying to improve their literacy and math skills. Nevertheless, the number of people with low levels of educational achievement is staggering, and an all-out effort is required.

In just a few hours at the beginning of my exploration, I discovered so many obstacles to basic information that it would take me a couple of days to write about what I found so far and document the issues at RIDE and the GED program in Rhode Island. (But see the report of my first foray into the swamp for my initial findings: "What If I Didn't Have a High School Diploma?) Meanwhile, here is my attempt to put some sense into the problem of getting a GED in Rhode Island -- free of charge!

  1. Hi, Neighbor! Have a 'GED!! -- Top down is not enough. It's everybody's business to fix Rhode Island's economy, specifically to raise our state's level of education. If you speak English well enough, know how to use a computer, and/or have a high school diploma or better, find someone who needs to improve their English, learn how to use a computer and conduct online research, and/or get a high school equivalency credential and coach them. If you need to learn, find someone to coach you. Everybody encourage everybody else to help our neighbors improve their skills. Babysit so parents can study! Whatever! All hands on deck!
  2. Let's model for our leaders how to solve the problems that prevent Rhode Islanders from achieving. Here are some useful questions I'll try to answer and tasks I'll undertake :
    1. Get out of the way! Set things up so that it is easy for Rhode Islanders to access practice tests, online preparation courses, etc., WITHOUT having to register or log in. Organize this information and be sure it can be found easily through obvious keyword searches. Empower the GED seekers. Assume they are intelligent and motivated. Treat students like responsible adults, which they are. I found no barriers to sample test questions through a Connecticut site, but ran into barriers and gates to everything through Rhode Island websites.
    2. Coordinate the online resources and address most of them to the adult students. I have found most RI GED information is aimed at "program administrators" and educators. Use normal words, like High School Equivalency or Adult Education, not jargon such as "Multiple Pathways." Rhode Island's information is a mess.
    3. Why aren't there GED classes on television stations? Or maybe there are, but when are they and on which channel? If there aren't any, do other states broadcast GED prep classes, and if so, what do they do?
    4. Connect Broadband RI computer training with Adult Education so every Rhode Islander can easily find out how to become a trainer or how to get this training. Rhode Island has great broadband infrastructure and our prosperity depends on everyone being able to use it. Computer training for all Rhode Islanders is a top priority!
    5. List the various credentials that Rhode Island employers accept as indication of better-paying-job readiness. I found several credentials listed in Connecticut. Why don't we have all these in Rhode Island? Or maybe we do, but I haven't found them yet.
    6. List the training centers, classes (including time and place), and frequently asked questions. There is too much gatekeeping here. Coordinate this information and put the ball in the student's court as much as possible. Many students will only have time to study after the kids go to sleep.
    7. In general, I need to put myself in the shoes of someone who doesn't have a GED. What would I need to do to get a high school equivalency credential?

I'll add more questions and tasks, but the above will keep me busy for a while. I have a lot of other work besides finding out about getting a GED in RI. Wish me luck. But let's all do everything we can to help our GED-less neighbors! They need a lot more than luck.