GED no longer considered a high school diploma in Florida

Florida’s education commissioner, Eric Smith, is right on target to close the loophole that allowed students in Florida to be given a standard high school diploma who earned a GED instead of completing high school.

Don’t get me wrong. The GED is an important fallback for those students and adults who, for one reason or another, failed to earn a standard high school diploma. But a GED is not equivalent to a high school diploma.

Research clearly shows that students–even of similar achievement levels—who earn a standard high school diploma are much better off after high school than their peers who left school to earn a GED. The Center added to this research in our Better late than never report, which clearly showed that even students who graduate late (i.e., took more than four years to complete high school) are much better off after high school than their classmates who left school to go on to earn a GED.

Nobody is arguing that the GED shouldn’t be an option, for both students and adults. But it should be used what it is supposed to be used for, a second chance for those who left high school without a diploma. However, schools need to provide effective dropout prevention programs as early as a middle school. The Center’s research on effective dropout prevention shows that such programs should include:

  • Prediction: Processes for identifying students early on who are in danger of dropping out.  
  • Intervention: Programs and initiatives to help high-risk students get back on track.
  • Prevention: Ways to organize school programs that will minimize the chances a student will become at risk of dropping out.
  • Recovery: Options for keeping older students in the pipeline when intervention and prevention are not enough.

By implementing programs with these aspects, high schools in Florida can start handing out standard high school diplomas to more students who actually earn theirs. And these students’ lives will be much better for it. –Jim Hull

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