A study from Kentucky Adult Education placed the Commonwealth 49th in the nation for the percentage of adults without a high school diploma or GED. Now, a Kentucky program that has helped adults nationwide get their GED for thirty three years is facing hard fiscal times.
At the Duvalle Learning Center in West Louisville, about ten adults sit and read from books and worksheets. Some of them are working with tutors. All of them are studying for the GED test.
“I love it except for the math,” says Sherrell Jackson, one of over 700,000 Kentuckians without a high school diploma or GED. Jackson says she’s here to set an example for her family.
“I have four kids and one graduated and three haven’t. I feel if I get mine it’ll encourage the other three to go ahead and do what they need to do,” says Jackson
But not all GED students are as open as Jackson.
GED Connection is a 39 episode television program produced by Kentucky Educational Television (KET) and aired nationwide. For $40, students can order workbooks and study along with the shows at home. That fee also includes a voucher for the GED test, which also typically costs $40.
The GED test is free in Jefferson County. But to many, anonymity is worth $40.
“Often we have people who enroll with us who just want the privacy of being able to study at home without anyone in their community knowing that they did not finish high school,” says Sharon Jackons, director of student services for GED Connection.
GED Connection has been on since 1975, and every eight to ten years the shows are updated along with the GED test. The show’s last revision was in the late 1990s, but the test it goes with will be replaced in three years.
“The last time we did a GED series, ten years ago, it cost about 3.5 million dollars,” says Bill Wilson, the deputy director of education and outreach at KET. “This year, we’re projecting it’ll cost about six million to do.”
Wilson says a federal grant helped pay for the last revision, and KET doesn’t yet have the money for the new series. To get it done in time Wilson says they’ll have to start production in six months. He plans to spend those six months, and maybe more, looking for funding.
“We may have to piecemeal this together. Get a little funding and start the thing and then move along and continue to seek funding as we go along,” says Wilson.
He adds that like past series, this revision will probably be about 39 episodes long to cover all of the material on the test. But all new episodes for television are just part of the plan.
“We have to think about iPods and VoiceThread and Facebook and all the other social networking capabilities we can add into this,” he says.
In addition to serving adults who want privacy, the series is also used in some GED classrooms.
“We feel there is a benefit, a big benefit to the video and workbook combination,” says Jenny Forseth, the coordinator of the Duvalle Learning Center, where some of Sherrell Jackson’s classmates use GED Connection to study. “The videos help student take the content and put it in a real-life application that by simply using the workbooks, they don’t always get that.”
With the current GED television curricula valid until 2011, Wilson says KET is looking for funding from the U.S. Departments of Education and Labor to update the production.