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Retention and the GED
An Action Research Project
by Jamie D. Barron Jones
In Focus on Basics, Vol. 2, Issue B, June, 1998
Research Finding: Retention rate in one GED program increased after the teacher implemented an intervention strategy.
Problem and Question: All orientation and testing for new GED students were done in the classrooms by the teacher. Jones tried to improve retention in his GED program by implementing facets of the learning environment and curriculum to make classes more user friendly. Yet he experienced drop out rates as high as 60 percent. Jones learned in discussions with students that they had problems and concerns, nothing to do with academic ability that affected their attendance. He developed this research question: “Will retention be improved by using interviews and creative writing assignments to identify barriers to attendance and providing referrals to services to address these barriers?”
Intervention Strategy. Jones formed an experimental group. When new students came to class, Jones interviewed them one-by-one in a separate room about why they had dropped out and were now enrolling; the positive aspects of their lives, such as families, work, hobbies, and interests; and a focus on goals and challenges and support systems they would encounter. Four weeks later he asked them to answer some questions in writing about why they dropped out of school, how it affected their lives, what their goals were, and where they saw themselves a year from that time. Based on what he learned, he referred students to a variety of agencies. Sometimes he provided the application forms and assisted in their completion.
Results: The experimental group maintained an 82 percent retention rate. The comparison group had a retention rate of 40 percent. All 14 of the remaining learners raised their reading and math levels by an average of two grade levels, compared to the comparison group who raised theirs on average only one grade level. Nine of the 14 students completed applications for postsecondary training and one participated in a youth work experience program. None of the students in the comparison group enrolled in such programs.
Conclusions: Learning more about students through interview and essay writing, working to develop a rapport, and providing referrals to social services resulted in both increased retention and impressive academic gains. Jones says the students grew as a community of learners. Students cannot thrive academically when they are overwhelmed with outside concerns.
This article can be found at the NCSALL website: www.ncsall.net. Go to Publications, to Focus on Basics (at the right) and then to “The GED.”
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