We serve Philadelphia youth who have dropped out of school. According to a 2006 study by Johns Hopkins University, of the 47,000 students currently enrolled in Philadelphia’s public high schools, it is likely that over 20,000 youth will not graduate. This report also calculated another 30,000 young adults under the age of 21 who had previously dropped out of school and did not yet have high school credentials. While more recent data indicates similar levels, and there is currently a pool of 50,000 out-of-school youth without diplomas or GEDs, this year the School District of Philadelphia was able to fund approximately 5,000 alternative education slots for high school dropout and other high-needs groups.
Another 10,000 adult education slots in Philadelphia are funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Education and are open to young adults. However, adult education programs have limited success at preparing youth and young adults to pass the GED tests. In fact, nationally, 80% of young adults in adult education programs (ages 16-25) score in the two lowest quintiles in literacy and numeracy (Adult Education in America–Educational Testing Service 2007) and 41% of young adults in adult education programs will separate from these programs before they make measureable educational gains. Additionally, students from the lowest socioeconomic levels and students who dropped out prior to the age of 18 were less likely than their peers to obtain GEDs (Factors Influencing GED and Diploma Attainment of High School Dropouts, Wayman 2001).
High school dropouts face dire prospects—a NY Times report in 2006 indicated that 72% of black male high school dropouts were jobless, and 60% will have spent time in prison by their mid 30’s. On the other hand, according to the US Department of Labor, for each additional youth who graduates from high school, the “estimated positive benefit” is $209,000 in higher government revenues and lower government spending. School District slot levels are unlikely to increase dramatically enough to serve the tens of thousands of youth without diplomas, and individual GED preparatory programs do not have the capacity to invest in the extensive curriculum and professional development they would need to effectively support this population of disconnected youth. Adult education programs are generally grossly underfunded, with per-pupil funding in 2001 averaging between $626 and $768 depending on the study (Adult Education in America–Educational Testing Service 2007).