Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Support #DiplomaBound Youth

Big news for alternative education learners and GED recipients! 

The Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) has proposed regulations that would amend current District graduation requirements. The regulations would allow local education agencies (LEAs) to offer competency based credits toward graduation with OSSE approval. OSSE also added new language to create a Superintendent’s Diploma for youth who demonstrate mastery of high school competencies by passing the General Education Development (GED), National External Diploma Program (NEDP), or achieve mastery through homeschooling. Now the State Board of Education must vote to approve these proposed regulations at their monthly meeting on December 17th.

Why is this great news?
Think about some of the barriers disconnected youth face when trying to go back to school to receive a traditional diploma.
  • A young person may be very competent in a subject matter, yet lack traditional, in-seat credits to prove it, preventing them from earning a degree in a timely manner. 
  • Traditional high schools offer less flexibility in scheduling, a particular barrier for young parents or young people who feel a financial pressure to help support their families. 
  • If youth are over 21, they can no longer attend traditional high schools, leaving them with limited educational options. 
Preparing for, and passing the GED is a critical alternative option. 
While the GED became much more rigorous in 2013, as reflected in its alignment to the Common Core Standards and Next Generation Science Standards, the test is still seen by some employers as an “easy way out” of mastering high school skills. This perception puts GED recipients at an even greater disadvantage when applying for jobs even though passing the GED and achieving a high school diploma demonstrates comparable mastery of the same core competencies. This perception has led to staggering inequities for GED students in terms of employability and earning power. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2009, GED certificate holders had significantly lower earnings ($3,100 per month) than those who earned a traditional high school diploma ($4,700 per month) regardless of sex, race, ethnicity, or age.

So what will the proposed regulations do for DC youth?
By allowing local education agencies to offer competency based credits, young people can prove mastery in a subject, even if they have failed the course in the past. Competency based credits are particularly important for youth nearing their 21st birthday who need to accrue credits quickly before they age out of traditional education options, as they might not have time to accrue credits based on seat-time. Competency based education is based off of a student’s actual knowledge of a subject matter rather than the number of hours they were sitting in a classroom.

By issuing a Superintendent’s Diploma upon completing the GED, students have an alternative pathway to receiving a state-issued diploma which proves their high school competency. This diploma would open doors for the over 7,500 youth (ages 16 – 24) in DC who are not currently enrolled in school or other educational programs.

And DC is not alone in this practice, 31 states provide either a traditional state diploma or an equivalency diploma upon students passing the GED. This includes our neighbor to the north, Maryland, which offers a state-issued diploma for GED attainment. As a result, District youth are currently at a disadvantage in the regional labor market. Employers considering a candidate from Maryland see a state issued diploma on their resume, while a candidate from the District may only claim GED attainment on their resume. Though both candidates have demonstrated the same mastery of the same concepts, studies show that preference is often given to the diploma holder.

How can we ensure these regulations become District policy?
On December 17th, the State Board of Education (SBOE) will vote to approve these proposed regulations, and we need your help! Here are some things you can do to ensure the SBOE supports these critical steps towards rigorous, yet flexible, educational pathways that acknowledge the unique needs of disconnected youth and adult learners: 
Tweet and/or email this blog to current board members to voice your support of the proposed regulations. 
Remember to use the hashtag #DiplomaBound so the conversation is loud and clear on Twitter.

View SBOE emails, twitter handles, and sample tweets.

Together, we can make sure DC creates educational pathways so all hard working residents can be #DiplomaBound and economically stable. Ask the SBOE to vote “YES” on OSSE’s proposed regulations to amend current District graduation requirements.

Follow our disconnected youth & youth workforce development policy analyst Amy Dudas at @amy_dudas and @DCAYA on twitter to stay updated on the progress of these proposals. 

For more on youth issues in DC you can FOLLOW us on Twitter, LIKE us on Facebook,SUBSCRIBE to this blog and VISIT us at

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