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A Second Chance

Each year, more than 25 percent of U.S. high school students drop out of school, joining the 45 million American adults who lack a diploma. Meanwhile, nearly 85 percent of today's jobs require at least a high school diploma or its equivalent. Perhaps your son or daughter quit school before receiving a high-school diploma. Fortunately, there is a way out of the dead-end job futures facing drop outs: an alternative diploma.

The American Council on Education (ACE) first developed the General Educational Development diploma (GED) 54 years ago. ACE continues to regulate and improve its content to insure that the 400,000 adults who pass it each year have the skills and knowledge that is equivalent to those acquired by a high-school graduate.

The GED consists of five tests that cover writing skills, social studies, interpreting literature and the arts, science, and math; the tests can be taken individually or all at once. The total testing time requires 7 hours, 35 minutes. Susan Porter Robinson, the Director of Outreach and Communications for the ACE says, "These tests are challenging. They ask the students to think -- to analyze, evaluate, and problem solve -- and not just to repeat facts. Those who pass can be proud of their skills and confident that they are ready to move on in their education and/or careers."

And move on they do. About one-half of the 800,000 students that take the GEDs each year plan to continue their studies. One in 20 college students is a GED graduate. Roughly 95 percent of U.S. colleges accept GED students who also meet their other entrance requirements. The GED format strives for equity. Tests are given in English, Spanish, and French; the visually impaired can choose Braille, audiocassette, or large print. If a student fails any part of the tests, he or she may try again, up to three times per year (the questions and test contents are always changing). The average age of students who take the tests is just over 24, but people in their 70s have proudly received their GED diploma as well.

If your child left school early, encourage him or her to contact the local school district about taking the GED. Most communities offer courses that prepare students for the exams, though no course work is required. If you or your child is interested in earning a GED diploma, contact your local school district to see if courses are available through adult education. For more information about the GED, call the GED Hotline at (800) 626-9433.

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