Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Critical Time for Action: Support #DiplomaBound Youth!

A Call to Action for students pursuing a GED or NEDP, alternative and adult education providers! 

As we’ve been sharing since last winter, the DC State Board of Education (SBOE) has been considering a series of proposals that would allow the Office of the State Superintendent ofEducation (OSSE) to award diplomas to nontraditional students, such as adult students and students attending alternative schools, who have passed the General Educational Development (GED) Test or the National External DiplomaProgram (NEDP). After a yearlong process, the SBOE will vote on these proposed regulations to create a State Diploma at their monthly meeting this evening.

Ahead of tonight’s vote, we need your support to ensure the SBOE votes in favor of the State Diploma as a critical element of the District’s second-chance system for reengaging youth and adult learners. Here’s our streamlined advocacy plan:

Why does the District need a State Diploma to support alternative students?

Disconnected youth face distinct barriers when trying to return to school to receive a traditional diploma.

  • The bulk of DC’s “second chance” programs (those that offer wraparound services in addition to educational instruction) offer GED preparation, not credit towards a diploma.
  • Traditional high schools offer less flexibility in scheduling, a particular barrier for young parents or young people who are under 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 or completing the NEDP are critical alternative options for re-engaging students. 

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 issuing a State Diploma upon completion of the GED or NEDP, students have an alternative pathway to demonstrating mastery of high school concepts and competencies. The State Diploma will open doors for the over 8,000 youth (ages 16 – 24) in DC who are not currently enrolled in school or other educational programs.

  • The State Diploma will enhance the regional competitiveness of DC’s youth and adult learners. Maryland already offers a State Diploma for GED attainment, and Virginia’s robust alternative education system functions as a pipeline to local employers. The State Diploma will help ensure that District residents applying for the same position as a resident of MD or VA has a comparable credential that demonstrates mastery of the same core competencies. In fact, 13 other states offer a State Diploma for GED/NEDP completion.
  • The State Diploma will aid in de-stigmatizing alternative pathways to high school competency. We know that a traditional high school diploma opens far more postsecondary education and employment opportunities than a GED credential alone, despite the increased rigor of the GED since 2013. Youth who obtain a traditional diploma often find work more easily and have more earning power than those who master similar concepts through the GED track. According to the 2009 Census, high school diploma holders earned approximately $4,700 in mean monthly earnings compared with GED certificate holders, who earned $3,100.

How can we ensure these regulations become District policy?

In order to ensure agile advocacy on the State Diploma, we’ve carved out our strategy in the case tonight’s meeting goes in one of the following three ways. In any case it’s important that will fill social media and the SBOE members’ inboxes with our support ahead of tonight’s vote at 5:30. To do so, please reference our updated Advocacy Guide (SECTION IV) for a social media guide with sample tweets and a sample email to reach out individually to the SBOE members. Make sure your SBOE representatives know you support the State Diploma with thunderous tweets and emails!

Remember to use the hashtag #DiplomaBound so the conversation is loud and clear on Twitter.

Here are our strategy plans based on the three possible ways tonight’s vote could go:

     1.     SBOE follows through tonight on a first and single vote on the creation of a State Diploma:
·       Advocates convene at the meeting to show support for the State Diploma.
o   Advocates can reference the Advocacy Guide to bolster their social media and email support.

      2.     If the SBOE votes in favor of the State Diploma tonight, but also requires a second vote once the 30 day public comment period passes on the proposed State Diploma regulations from OSSE:
·       Advocates maintain pressure on the SBOE to vote in favor of the State Diploma via social media and direct engagement.
·       Advocates engage with Council, and urge them to move forward on a legislative approach to creating the State Diploma. A bill was introduced and moved to the Committee on Education earlier this year to create the State Diploma.

      3.     If the SBOE votes no tonight and does not schedule a second vote on the State Diploma for December:
·       Advocates sign onto a letter expressing our appreciation of the SBOE’s work on this issue, but state that the urgency of the issue requires that we turn to Council for support in moving the State Diploma forward.
·       Advocates engage with Council, and urge them to move forward on a legislative approach to creating the State Diploma. A bill was introduced and moved to the Committee on Education earlier this year to create the State Diploma.

Together, we can make sure DC creates educational pathways so all hard working residents can be #DiplomaBound as a first step towards their lifelong success. 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 the State Diploma. 

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