Discusses the successes and challenges related to the implementation of a GED training program in New York City.

“For the nearly 39 million U.S. adults who do not have a high school diploma, the General Educational Development (GED) programs and exam have served as the main avenue for improving individuals’ skills and helping them earn a high school credential. However, few students who start these programs ever get this credential and even fewer advance to the postsecondary education and higher-level training programs that could increase their earning potential. In response to this challenge, the American Council on Education (ACE) partnered with Pearson Inc. to release a new more rigorous GED test in 2014 that assesses the crucial thinking, writing, and analytical skills considered essential for success in today’s labor market. In addition, ACE partnered with the New York City Department of Education’s District 79 (D79), the Office for Adult and Continuing Education (OACE), and MDRC to create the Learning Pathways Pilots, a project aimed at improving students’ preparation for this new more rigorous exam.

The pilots focused on revising a K-12 writing curriculum (based on the Writers Express [WEX]) and an adult basic education math curriculum (based on Extending Mathematical Power [EMPower]) to align with the Common Core State Standards. The Common Core is a set of nationally recognized K-12 language arts and math competencies upon which the new GED exam was based. These curricula were then implemented in dozens of D79 and OACE classrooms. This report details the findings from MDRC’s evaluation of the implementation of these curricula over the course of the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 academic years” (p.iii).

(Abstractor: Author)

Major Findings & Recommendations

Successes from the implementation of the program include: • “A large number of D79 and the Office for Adult and Continuing Education OACE teachers received intensive, on-site training in the Writers Express (WEX )and Extending Mathematical Power (EMPower)curricula” (p.10). • “EMPower trainings demonstrated the curricula’s explicit connection to the Common Core or 2014 GED; these connections were less clear in WEX trainings, but improved over time” (p.10). • “WEX and EMPower were implemented widely across the D79 and OACE programs” (p.11). • “Instructors using the WEX and EMPower curricula saw value in their respective approaches and felt that these curricula helped prepare students for the 2014 GED” (p.11). • “WEX and EMPower instructors generally followed the suggested lesson outline and content” (p.11). • “Overall, students in focus groups had positive reactions to WEX and EMPower and noted improvements in their reading, writing, and math skills” (p.11). Challenges to the implementation of the program include: • “Students being taught with WEX and EMPower curricula in D79 and OACE were highly transient, with the average student persisting in classes for less than three months” (p.13). • “The sequential nature of the curricula and difficulties with course materials posed persistent challenges in implementing both WEX and EMPower” (p.13). • “Implementation problems and students’ inconsistent attendance led to students receiving a limited amount of WEX and EMPower instruction” (p.14). • “Teachers’ interest in and implementation of WEX and EMPower often depended on their administrators’ interpretation of the curricula” (p.14). • “District reorganization and staff turnover in D79 and OACE made it difficult to create a seamless message about the implementation of WEX and EMPower” (p.14). “D79’s and OACE’s experiences also point to several ways that adult education practices might be modified to further facilitate new curricular reforms. These include: • Creating shorter lesson cycle sequences that align with adult students’ attendance patterns” (p.17). • “Providing additional out-of-classroom supports to give absent students the opportunity to work on course materials” (p.18). • “Fostering faculty participation in decision making about curricula” (p.18). (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)