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What Can Employers Assume about the Literacy Skills of GED® Graduates?

Authors: David Kaplan and Richard L. Venzky

Source: University of Delaware

Participants: 1,012 African-American, Caucasian, and Hispanic young adults between the ages of 21 and 25.

Method: The value of the GED® tests as a certificate mechanism was explored by comparing the literacy skills of young adults who did not attend college. The participants were either (a) high school graduates; (b) high school dropouts who passed the GED® tests; (c) high school dropouts who studied for but did not pass the GED® tests; or (d) high school dropouts who neither studied for nor passed the GED® tests. Three scales of functional literacy were administered: prose literacy, document literacy, and quantitative literacy.

Results: In all three areas of literacy, high school graduates performed better than GED® completers. However, there was a much greater difference between the scores of GED® completers and those of noncompleters and dropouts. Comparison of scores between Hispanics and African-Americans revealed only slight differences, while Caucasian and African-American differences were more evident.

Some demographic variables affected performance. Hispanics scored slightly--but significantly--better than African-Americans on the Prose scale, and Caucasians scored significantly better than either of these groups on all three scales. Females outperformed males on the Prose and Quantitative scales. In addition, parents' educational levels tended to predict Prose scale performance.

Conclusion: Employers can expect significant differences in literacy abilities between GED® completers and GED® noncompleters. Differences between GED® completers and high school graduates are only marginally significant when compared to the noncompleters and dropouts.

Performance differences could be defined by differences in the probability of correctly filling in forms, writing short descriptions, or extracting information from charts, graphs, tables, and related materials.

Condensed by: Karen Sturm

The complete document, Technical Report TR93-5, is available from: The National Center on Adult Literacy, University of Pennsylvania, Dissemination Office, 3910 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-3111. Telephone: 215-898-2100. The price is $8.00 (includes shipping and handling).

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