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Enhancing GED instruction to prepare students for college and careers: Early success in LaGuardia Community College’s Bridge to Health and Business program (Martin & Broadus 2013)

Citation

Martin, V. & Broadus, J. (2013). Enhancing GED instruction to prepare students for college and careers: Early success in LaGuardia Community College’s Bridge to Health and Business program. New York: MDRC.

Highlights

    • The study’s objective was to examine the impact of LaGuardia Community College’s general educational development (GED) Bridge to Health and Business program on GED completion, college enrollment, and college persistence.
    • The study was a randomized controlled trial. Eligible students (369 in total) were randomly assigned to either the treatment group, which could participate in the GED Bridge program, or the control group, which could not participate in the GED Bridge program but could participate in a traditional GED preparation course.
    • The study found that, compared with students randomly assigned to the traditional GED Prep course, those offered enrollment in the GED Bridge to Health and Business program were more likely to complete the GED course, pass the GED exam within a year, enroll in a City University of New York (CUNY) community college by the end of the study, and reenroll for a second semester at a CUNY community college by the end of the study.
    • The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is high because it was based on a well-implemented randomized controlled trial. This means we are confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the GED Bridge to Health and Business program, and not to other factors.

Intervention Examined

The GED Bridge to Health and Business Program

Features of the Intervention

LaGuardia Community College of the City University of New York system developed the GED Bridge to Health and Business program to help New York City residents without a high school diploma or equivalent to succeed on the GED exam and encourage them to continue on to higher education. The program featured 108 hours of classroom instruction following a specially designed curriculum oriented toward careers in health care and business and taught by a full-time instructor who was paid for both class and preparation time. Students in the program received in-class and individualized counseling and had access to general college resources. The GED Bridge program lasted 12 weeks.

Features of the Study

New Yorkers ages 18 and older with incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty line and no high school diploma or GED were eligible to apply to participate; applicants who subsequently scored at or above a 7th-grade reading level on the Test for Adult Basic Education (TABE) in mathematics and reading were eligible to participate in the study. The study enrolled 369 applicants, although this analysis is based on outcomes for 276 participants, because the data for the last cohort of participants was not available at the time of writing.

Eligible students were randomly assigned to one of two groups: the treatment group was enrolled tuition-free in LaGuardia Community College’s GED Bridge to Health and Business program and the control group was enrolled tuition-free in a traditional GED preparation course modeled on LaGuardia Community College’s established, tuition-funded GED program. The traditional program featured 60 hours of classroom instruction following a standard GED textbook taught by an adjunct instructor who was paid for in-class time, but not preparation time. Students in the control group had access to general college resources, but received no additional counseling.

Students in the study had an average age of 26.6 years. Two-thirds (67.2 percent) were female, 50.1 percent were Hispanic, and 34.5 percent were non-Hispanic African American. More than half (53.4 percent) reported receiving public assistance, and 15.2 percent reported that the highest grade they had attained was 9th grade or below. One-third (33.6 percent) of participants scored at the 10th-grade level or above on the TABE, and 50.1 percent scored at the 7th- or 8th-grade level.

The authors estimated the effect of the GED Bridge program by comparing the means of treatment and control group members on outcomes of interest, controlling for demographic characteristics.

Findings

    • The study found that, compared with students assigned to a traditional GED prep course, those offered enrollment in the GED Bridge to Health and Business program were 27.1 percentage points more likely to complete the GED course and 30.4 percentage points more likely to pass the GED exam within a year.
    • In addition, students in the treatment group were 17.0 percentage points more likely, or more than three times as likely, to enroll in a CUNY community college by the end of the study and 8.9 percentage points more likely, or more than four times as likely, to reenroll for a second semester at a CUNY community college by the end of the study.

Considerations for Interpreting the Findings

The GED Bridge program had multiple components and it is not possible to determine which of them were responsible for the program impacts. For instance, the quality of staff delivering the curricula likely varied across conditions, because instructors taught the GED Bridge program and were paid for preparation time, whereas adjuncts taught the traditional GED program and were not paid for preparation time. Thus, teacher quality and preparation time were included in the estimate of the program’s effects. In other words, implementing the program without this (or another) component might not yield the same results.

Causal Evidence Rating

The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is high because it was based on a well-implemented randomized controlled trial. This means we are confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the GED Bridge to Health and Business program, and not to other factors.

Reviewed by CLEAR

September 2015

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