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The General Educational Development (GED) Credential: History, Current Research, and Directions for Policy and Practice

Volume 5: Chapter Three
John H. Tyler

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In Chapter Three, John Tyler reviews the recent research on the impact of acquiring a General Educational Development (GED) credential. He first presents a history of the GED credential itself, and its growth and evolution since the 1940s. Then, he describes recent research on the impact of the GED, highlighting four key findings: 1) the GED may encourage some high school students to leave school early; 2) the economic payoff of the GED accrues only to dropouts who leave school with low skills; 3) the economic payoffs to the GED take time to accrue; 4) and postsecondary education and training are fruitful but little-used routes to economic success for GED holders.

Tyler concludes the chapter with a set of recommendations for policy, research, and practice. With respect to policy, he calls for tighter links between GED programs and postsecondary and training institutions to encourage more adult learners to continue their education beyond GED acquisition. In addition, he suggests the possibility of awarding certificates to learners at levels below the GED as an incentive to continue their learning en route to the GED. Tyler further notes the need for future research to accomplish the following three objectives: 1) to build our understanding of the primary factors that depress GED holders’ postsecondary enrollment patterns; 2) to make clearer whether the GED tends to induce students to drop out of school; and 3) to explore the non-economic benefits of GED acquisition to individuals and society. Finally, with respect to practice, Tyler points out that, since the largest economic payoff from GED acquisition accrues to the least skilled, GED programs should focus more resources on the skill development of lower skilled adult learners. In addition, he notes the critical importance of helping adult learners to see the connection between additional education and training and their future economic success, and a greater emphasis on the GED as a steppingstone, rather than an end in itself.

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