Expert: Post-high school training matters more than GED vs. diploma debate | St. Louis Public Radio

Expert: Post-high school training matters more than GED vs. diploma debate

Aug 27, 2017

Updated Aug. 28 to correct Kris Shannon's title — The director of one of Missouri’s adult education programs is worried high school equivalency tests are being undervalued.

A new Missouri law will establish four adult high schools in the state, including one in St. Louis. The bill sponsor wanted adults to have a chance to complete a high school curriculum because, he said, a diploma is more attractive to employers than a GED certificate.

But in the five years she’s been helping students prepare for high school equivalency tests, St. Louis Adult Education and Literacy director Kris Shannon said she’s never had a student tell her they couldn’t get a job because they had a high school equivalency certificate instead of a diploma.

Shannon is concerned the new push for online diplomas and the state-run adult high schools are recreating the wheel.

“Their scope is so narrow that I do not want programs that exist and serve a large number of students at a very low cost per student (to be forgotten): Statewide, our cost was only $645 per student last year, which is far less than some of these other programs are going to require,” Shannon said.

Shannon, who is also the director of adult education for St. Louis Public Schools, said the state's current high school equivalency test, HiSET, is rigorous.

“An individual that works hard and does what they need to do and completes all sections, they’re in a great position to not just enter the workforce but thrive in it,” Shannon said.

Historically, people with high school equivalency certification did earn less money, according to Jeff Strohl with the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

But Strohl said most well-paying jobs these days require additional certification, and passing high school equivalency tests can pave the way for career training or an associate’s degree.

“The thing that they should really be thinking about though, is trying to not only leverage that for work opportunity, but to leverage that to ensure that the students have an opportunity to go on and get a one-year degree in college, a certification, things like that,” Stroll said.

This story has been corrected to show Kris Shannon is the St. Louis Adult Education and Literacy director, not the Missouri Director of Adult Education and Literacy.

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