The national debate around education usually focuses on children. But what happens when those children grow up and try to make their way into the world? In our five-part series, Yesterday's Dropouts, we look at the struggles adults face long after they leave school without a diploma.
Approximately 15 percent of adults in the U.S. are at the low end of the literacy spectrum. On the local level, nearly 20 percent of adults in Washington, D.C. — roughly 85,000 residents — lack basic literacy skills. In part one of our series, two D.C. residents share the experiences and struggles they face with low literacy skills.
Of the approximately 450,000 people who passed the GED test in the U.S. last year, 500 were D.C. residents. But that number is expected to be far smaller next year when the exam undergoes what some adult educators call a "radical overhaul." And many adult education advocates say that the new test is being rolled out too quickly.
For adults who dropped out years ago, the GED test is commonly seen as the first step to a better paying job or higher education. It 2010, it accounted for about 12 percent of all high school credentials given out in the U.S. and is recognized all over the country. But research shows that it may not give people a "true" second chance.
In D.C., about 40 percent of students in adult education programs are in English as Second Language classes. They are immigrants at the bottom rungs of society, working basic jobs for little money. But one of a few local schools is helping them achieve the "American Dream."
Adults who go back to school often struggle to earn a diploma and hold a steady job. When they can't read or write well, it affects whole communities in a variety of ways, including employment, health and education.