Charles County pilots alternate route GED program
Aims to provide alternate pathway for older immigrant teens with little formal schooling
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?”