It’s well known that graduating from high school is generally insufficient preparation to be competitive in today’s economy. Reformers hope, however, that higher standards through the Common Core might, in time, improve the value of the diploma. But what about those who don’t even graduate? As a new radio documentary, Yesterday’s Dropouts, from D.C.’s WAMU radio station shows, a GED is far from sufficient to get America’s thirty million high school dropouts back on track. In fact, the piece cites research by James Heckman and Tim Kautz that found that only 1 percent of GED earners went on to complete a bachelor’s degree within six years! The piece is at its best when reminding us just how dire a situation we face, as students continue to drop out of high school and into an economy that simply isn’t creating good-paying jobs for low-skilled workers. Kavitha Cardoza does a fine job narrating the piece and provides some thought-provoking insights into Washington State’s I-BEST program, which helps adult learners earn job skills and is now being emulated elsewhere. Overall, though, the piece borders on outright advocacy at times—and while it is presented as a neutral exploration of the issue, it sure seems to have started with the “right answer” in mind and worked backwards. Still, workforce-development efforts for high school dropouts are vitally important, and the idea of moving to a more diverse set of credentials for these workers is certainly worth the in-depth treatment.

SOURCE: Kavitha Cardoza (host), Breaking Ground: Yesterday’s Dropouts (Washington, D.C.: WAMU, 2013).

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