Education: GEDs, the New Street Epidemic, Part 1 by Kyle Phoenix

I've worked for several GED programs over the years as a volunteer and as an employee; my role being everything from teacher to program director and I've watched an educational game being played over and over.  On one hand the intention is to help teenagers/adults complete their high school education who may've been interrupted or come from a foreign land and need equivalency school work to meet our school standards.  On the other hand a program has to be paid for, teachers and materials----operating expenses.  Unfortunately such expenses tend to undermine the commitment to the first educational intention.

What unfortunately allows a level of disconnect from a funding point of view is that the student body, about fifty percent, are disconnected from education.  The art and interest in learning is something that isn't easy to do when you've separated yourself from school.  People from the outside, believe school is rote, books, lessons but in fact it is a direct skill set that is reinforced over a decade.  We then use that skill set, those tools to focus our attention to manage and absorb information on deeper and deeper levels.  If however you've stopped at some point and your parents aren't educated beyond a certain level, it's near impossible to progress.

The demands of work, parole officers, children, Welfare, co-dependent family and relationships makes the sudden demands of 10 to 20 hours of school a week overwhelming.  Top all of this off with intellectual capabilities of the students which fall into three categories: so little formal educational that they're functioning as low as at a 3rd grade level---I've had students in their 20s to 70s who fall into this criteria; then there are adults who were interrupted for a variety of reasons and with some application and dedication can generally get through---learning that application and dedication takes time; then there's a huge number of those who are gifted but the two previous interrupting dimensions has occurred and the measurement of giftedness in poverty, especially educational poverty, doesn't exist as a formalized training so most teachers can't recognize it.  In many ways the education of the Interrupted looks like a level of social work because the issues that prevent them from completing school or learning the skill set are generally not school program related.  This need for a more comprehensive learning program is what leads to programs being more obsessed with it's own funding than progressing students.

I've been at the programs that have really extended themselves to try and fill the holes in people's lives.  To provide social events, graduation ceremonies, trips, tutorial services and the like to try and recreate the high school experience.  I've watched this both work and not work.  To recreate the high school experience for people whom high school didn't work out for is often encouraging the students to regress emotionally to where they failed and start having emotional issues.  Fist fights, students using drugs in classrooms, thefts, it's not a good thing.  At the same time there are some adults who genuinely need and can benefit immensely from a congenial atmosphere.

On the other end of the spectrum are programs that make about $2500 a head per student of State/private funding by the 2nd week of a semester.  So they look at how to retain students for at least 4 weeks of a 10 week semester.  Two weeks are spent on "orientation", which is really the compulsory filling out of forms to proof to the State that people exist to insure payment.  The educational classes generally try and run 2 to 4 nights, at 2-3 hours a class.  Compare that with standard public school (I generally give my students ths full below breakdown to help them understand why we need them to read/study/do homework away from the program):
  • GED Program is at max 10 hours a week.
  • Public school is 40 hours per week.
  • GED Program is about 520 if it went 52 weeks; most go about 20 weeks a year--making it about 200 hours.
  • Public school goes 9 months or 36 weeks x 40 hours=1400+ hours a year

That means most GED program are 7 times less time in school than the schooling you may have gotten K thru 12.

Which is why GED programs fail (especially when you incorporate in the concern/greed from the staff over the funding and the students social problems---poverty being the predominant issue with GED students---education follows money or lack thereof.)  In the current design of standard educations it's TIME not the resource of money to materials to teachers that is the first factor in creating successful youth and adult students.

I've been wrestling with this work as part of my Adult Education capstone/thesis, trying new strategies out.  Perfecting old ones.   Over the past 7 years I've taught about 50 individual GED classes at all levels with all racial populations really perfecting what works and doesn't work. I recently started a program/school over now two boroughs really applying some new radical ideas and applications to the work.  We have to solve this problem because it is the racial imbalancer.  Lack of education effects employment and advancement.  Following along with children becoming what their parents are, less educated parents create future drop outs with less education.

NEXT TIME:  Education: GED/Adult Education Epidemic: What Is Education?, Part 2

Thank you for reading,
Kyle Phoenix
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