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Young adults who struggle academically are often frustrated by the challenges they regularly face as students. The disappointment these students experience in their academic performance challenges their abilities to maintain a positive attitude toward school. Struggling students’ academic dissatisfaction creates a loss of interest in school; giving rise to irregular attendance. The overwhelming feeling of discouragement felt by such students impairs their ability to appreciate the significance of a high school diploma. Seeing no advantage in completing a secondary education, many succumb to becoming yet another member of this growing segment of the population: the high school drop-out.
Although many young adults are aware of the negative implication it carries—a stigma, of sorts—to them, the risks associated with being labeled a “drop-out” far outweigh the benefits of continuing with their education. This, in turn, contributes to America’s silent epidemic, resulting from an estimated 39 million Americans over the age of 16 who are high school drop-outs and have no immediate plans of resuming their education (Rossi & Bower, 2018, p.
Over the years, it has been speculated to what degree non-traditional students are impacted by relevant, technology-based curricula and whether these experiences have proven positive for adult learners. With the goal of obtaining their high school equivalency certificate, many high school drop-outs are returning to school after a one- to two-decade hiatus, as adult learners. This literature review will assist the reader in determining whether non-traditional, alternative GED (General Education Development) Preparation Course curricula designed specifically for the adult learner proves conducive to a high school drop-out satisfying the requirements necessary for receiving a high school equivalency certificate.
An attempt in addressing this very topic is made by asking the question, “Can non-traditional adult learners determined to obtain a high school equivalency certificate effectively prepare for the GED with newly-designed GED Diploma Preparation courses?” and how such curricula will inspire high school drop-outs to pursue a GED Diploma and/or post-secondary education…free from the confines of a school campus.
For the purpose of this literature review, we will employ Kim and Joo’s (2013) definition of a drop-out, as an individual who is “absent from school for 4 or more consecutive weeks for reasons other than accident or illness” (p. 172). Plenty of studies exist on the social, professional, and economic ramifications a high school drop-out experiences. Maralani (2011) addressed sociological consequences such as discrimination and stereotyping and maintained that achieving a GED Diploma would shield high school drop-outs from harsh criticism. From reading Snyder’s (1982) account of stereotypes and their effects on American society, we also come to the realization that they are quite challenging to overcome. These stereotypes, which are often used negatively, affect individuals or groups which are believed to share displeasing qualities. “What is critical, however, is that these assumptions are not merely beliefs or attitudes that exist in a vacuum; they are reinforced by the behavior of both prejudiced people and the targets of their prejudice” (Snyder, 1982, p. 579). An example of prevalent stereotypes in today’s society includes using one’s formal education level to presume how much knowledge they possess—society often regards a high school drop-out as an under-educated individual who lacks follow-through and is only suitable for performing remedial work.
According to Maralani, a GED Diploma “gives individuals without a secondary degree a way to ameliorate the stigma of being a dropout” (2011, p. 1059). For many, however, the decision to re-enter the academic setting in order to obtain a high school equivalency certificate is the first step in a long journey toward educational fulfillment. The high school dropout, undoubtedly, faces many challenges when attempting to navigate through life. Equally challenging are the obstacles they face when they commit to returning to the academic setting as adult learners.
Annually, approximately 600,000 adult learners enroll in educational programs focusing on GED® test preparation (Strucker, 2013, p. 25). “In 1974, California became the last state to award a high school equivalency credential to civilians who passed the GED exam” (Heckman, Humphries, LaFontaine, & Rodriguez, 2012, p. 498). The GED® (General Educational Development) test was “originally created for the military” and “was focused on the basic skills and content knowledge expected of “average” high school students” (Strucker, 2013, p. 25). The GED test takers must successfully pass a test consisting of five parts within the allotted 7 ½ hour time fram (Heckman, Humphries, LaFontaine, & Rodriguez, 2012, p. 496). Heckman et al. (2012) conducted extensive research on this subject and found that California boasted the highest high school graduation rates of any state in the union, prior to offering a GED certification program. “Introduction of GED certificates for civilians in California” they contended “increased the dropout rate” (Heckman et al., 2012, p. 498).
The prevalent under-education of American students is alarming…and continues to become increasingly evident. “In a world in which education is becoming ever more important, finding solutions to the dropout problem is one of the most pressing issues facing America’s high schools” (Tyler & Lofstrom, 2009, p. 95). Increasing persistence has repeatedly been offered as a viable solution. However, “student persistence addresses a student’s commitment to complete a course” (Tello, 2007, p. 48), thereby inferring that a dropout lacks commitment and determination. Lack of persistence, therefore, is exhibited when the high school dropout seizes to learn, rendering them under-educated; while their “average” high school student counterparts continue to gain knowledge. Strucker (2013), after working in adult education for 11 years teaching beginning and intermediate reading, noticed the under-education of American adults; what he referred to as the knowledge gap (p. he 26). Knowledge gaps, maintained “are the result of academic content adult learners missed during their K-12 school years (Strucker, 2013, p. 26), making it difficult for adult students to understand the curricula when returning to school.
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