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guestview: James Neeley
The GED diploma: Why it matters

One in every five Tennesseans does not have high school diploma.

In an age when the jobs of tomorrow have not yet been created, educating our workforce has never been more crucial.

Tennessee’s adult education program provides the necessary basic education for individuals without a diploma who are looking to improve their job opportunities. Almost 96 percent of those who take the GED exam tell us they are doing so to increase their employment options through obtaining a new job, securing a promotion in their current job, or moving on to occupational or postsecondary education to train for a whole new career. These individuals have realized that without a basic high school credential, opportunities for employment advancement and higher wages are extremely limited.

There are many misconceptions about the GED diploma. Some think that it is a sub-par credential that most anyone could earn. In reality, the GED exam is a seven and one-half hour comprehensive exam that measures reading, writing and math skills along with the areas of science, social studies and literature. The scoring standard is set by the GED Testing Service, which functions under the American Council on Education, so that 40 percent of seniors, on track to graduate and in the spring of their graduating year, cannot pass the exam. Why is this significant, and what does it say to employers?

What the scoring standard tells us is that once one has achieved the GED diploma, there is a guarantee to an employer that the individual can read, write and do math at a high school level, has demonstrated an ability and willingness to learn, and has proven that he/she will make the necessary sacrifices to finish something started.

Those taking the GED exam are getting younger and younger. Last year, our Adult Education program served almost 7,000 students in the 17-18-year-old age group and almost 10,000 who were 19-24 years old. These individuals have 40-50 years left in the workforce. We must invest in them now so that they have the ability to earn higher wages to improve their quality of life.

The new $2.5 million appropriation from the General Assembly tells me that there is recognition of the importance adult education plays in the educational fabric of our state. One in every five high school credentials issued in this state is a GED diploma. When a business is looking to relocate to Tennessee, they want to know the educational level of an area. GED diplomas help raise the educational level of Tennessee, which in turn can help attract better-paying jobs.

I am proud that this state is beginning to recognize the contribution our Adult Education program makes to the educational level and economic development of our state. Investing in Adult Education results in a better-educated workforce, parents better equipped to help their children in school, higher revenue for our tax base, and stronger communities. By investing in adult education, we are investing in Tennessee’s future.


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