High School Dropouts – Part II
How Does a GED Help Students Who Drop Out of School?

When you go into teaching, your one goal is to provide a high-quality education to all students. That’s why it’s so disappointing when students past or present drop out of school entirely.

You do everything you can to reach them, but there are always a few students who you just can’t seem to help. The best you can hope for is that they go on to get their GED.

GED stands for General Education Development and it’s a test on 4 subject areas—Math, Language Arts, Social Studies, and Science—that determines whether or not they have academic skills comparable to that of a high school graduate.

It’s only natural to hope that any student who drops out of school goes on earn a GED. People with GEDs earn more money over a lifetime and have a much better chance of getting a job than those who simply drop out of school and never go on to earn their GED.   However, they do not earn at the same level as those students who graduate high school.   They also have limited job opportunities and even more limited promotional opportunities. 

When you look at the data, the number of students who complete all 7 hours of the GED test and those who pass certainly looks promising. The latest numbers suggest that of the 816,000+ people who took the GED in a recent year, 87.5% completed the entire test and an impressive 75.7% of test-takers passed it.

This seems logical since 54% of students who drop out of school do so in the 10th or 11th grade. Because a good majority of their formal education has been completed by that time, many of these students can pull on the knowledge they gained prior to dropping out of school.

But these numbers can be deceiving because the number of students who drop out and then go on to take the GED test is shockingly low.  In fact, only 29% of white students, 20% of black students, and only 10% of Latino students who drop out of school eventually earn their GED.

We know that the average age of a high school graduate in the United States is 17.7 years old. So the next question is how long does it take for these students to earn their GEDs after they drop out?  The mean age for students to earn their GED is actually 21.3 years old—more than 3.5 years later than they should have graduated from high school.

This data includes the average age for all GED recipients. For those individuals who go on to attend some level of college, the average age to complete their GED is 19.8 years. This tells us that students who are more likely to earn their GED at an earlier age may also be more likely to attend college.

For some students who are considering dropping out of school, moving from the traditional brick & mortar school to a virtual school may encourage them to stay and complete their education.  Virtual schools provide an excellent education while eliminating many of the outside distractions that may lead to students dropping out.  The social circles, bullying, school violence, peer pressure and feeling that they don’t fit in are some of stresses that students deal with on a daily basis.  Virtual schools significantly reduce or completely eliminate these distractions so students can focus on their education.