Charles County pi­lots al­ter­nate route GED pro­gram

Aims to pro­vide al­ter­nate path­way for older im­mi­grant teens with lit­tle for­mal school­ing

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU jan­fen­son-comeau@somd­news.com

Charles County is one of four school sys­tems in the state to pi­lot a new pro­gram aimed at pro­vid­ing im­mi­grant stu­dents in their late teens with lit­tle for­mal ed­u­ca­tion a path­way to at­tain­ing their Gen­eral Ed­u­ca­tional Development (GED) high school equiv­a­lency di­ploma and ca­reer train­ing.

Deputy Su­per­in­ten­dent Amy Holl­stein and Kim­berly Watts, spe­cial­ist in world lan­guages and ESOL (English for Speak­ers of Other Lan­guages) pre­sented the GED Op­tions Pi­lot to the Charles County Board of Ed­u­ca­tion dur­ing its Aug. 9 meet­ing, the first of the new school year.

“We’re ab­so­lutely thrilled to be a part of this,” said Kim­berly Hill, su­per­in­ten­dent of Charles County Pub­lic Schools.

The al­ter­na­tive path­way pro­gram is be­ing pi­loted in Charles, Fred­er­ick, Mont­gomery and Prince Ge­orge’s coun­ties, with the pos­si­bil­ity of ex­pand­ing it to other coun­ties later, Watts said.

The pro­gram is cur­rently be­ing pi­loted with 10 stu­dents in Charles County, Watts said.

Holl­stein said the pro­gram is aimed at re­cent U.S. im­mi­grants who have had lit­tle for­mal school­ing and sig­nif­i­cant de­lays in English lan­guage and lit­er­acy skills.

“This is for stu­dents who are start­ing high school at 17, 18 years old and there is not enough time for them to grad­u­ate be­fore they age out at 21,” Holl­stein said. “Most of them have not been in school for sev­eral years.”

Stu­dents will spend half of their days at Mau­rice J. McDonough High School, where they will take ESOL classes and GED cour­ses.

The other half of their days will be at the Robert Stethem Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­ter, where they will take Span­ish, Ca­reer and Tech­ni­cal Ed­u­ca­tion (CTE) and elec­tive cour­ses, Watts said.

“What that means is that we’re go­ing to take the stu­dent out of the tra­di­tional route, and while they will at­tend school with a tra­di­tional sched­ule, they will be tracked for GED,” Watts said.

Watts said that un­like most GED stu­dents, stu­dents in the pi­lot pro­gram will not need to with­draw from school to en­roll in the pro­gram, al­though they will be counted as non-com­pleters in school statis­tic in­for­ma­tion.

“It’s not about the num­bers, it’s about do­ing what’s right for the kids, and this is right for our kids,” Holl­stein said.

Watts said the pro­gram is de­signed to pro­vide a path — not a guar­an­tee — to a GED and ca­reer.

“We’re not guar­an­tee­ing that you’re go­ing to get a GED, what we’re do­ing is giv­ing you a path­way to ob­tain a GED,” Watts said.

The pro­gram is de­signed to meet a grow­ing need in the state, Watts said, as more im­mi­grants come to Mary­land.

“This is the largest grow­ing stu­dent pop­u­la­tion — English lan­guage learn­ers — and we’re ex­pect­ing from the state in­di­ca­tions, and na­tional in­di­ca­tions that we’ll have an­other large in­flux of refugees and un­ac­com­pa­nied mi­nors in the next school year,” Watts said. “It’s com­ing; the ques­tion is, are we pre­pared or not?”

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