August 24th, 2010 – As part of the New York City Council’s continued efforts to help New Yorkers get good jobs, Speaker Christine C. Quinn and Council Member Maria del Carmen Arroyo today launched a citywide “Back to School” campaign to get more New Yorkers to sign up for the GED and for free education courses. The Speaker and Council Member, joined by Elyse Barbell of the Literacy Assistance Center, spoke with Executive Director Wanda Salaman and dozens of volunteers from Mothers on the Move – a community organization dedicated to social and economic justice – who will be assisting with outreach efforts in the Bronx.

“This September, we want New Yorkers of all ages to go back to school,” said Speaker Quinn. “Today a staggering 1.6 million New Yorkers don’t have their high school diplomas and are struggling with unemployment, lack of opportunity and the sheer weight of competing for jobs with others who are better educated. The GED is the first step toward helping them realize better lives, and we want all New Yorkers to be able to take advantage of its benefits.”

“Today, we are calling on community members to join us in our efforts to get the word out about the GED,” said Council Member Arroyo. “GED’s are the bridges to better careers and educational opportunities, and New Yorkers need to take full advantage of what adult learning programs have to offer.”

“New Yorkers all across our City are either unemployed, or stuck in jobs with little or no growth potential, and lack of education is often to blame,” said Council Member Robert Jackson, Chair of the City Council’s Education Committee. “For those lacking a high school diploma, getting a GED is essential to future success. We want New Yorkers to know this important information is now literally at their fingertips.”

“We are thrilled that Speaker Quinn and her colleagues in the City Council continue to lead the way on improving and expanding New York City’s GED and adult education system,” said Tara Colton, Director of Strategy and Partnerships for the New York City Department of Education’s Office of Adult and Continuing Education. “Each year, thousands of New Yorkers take the often-difficult first step towards earning their GED and achieving their goals, and we look forward to welcoming many new students to our programs this fall.”

Throughout the fall, the Council will be taking this message directly to New Yorkers in all five boroughs:

Working with the Literacy Assistance Center, the DOE, and New York Community Trust, the Council recently launched the GED Compass, a website that will help New Yorkers navigate the adult education system and find the classes they need, or sign up for the GED test.
The Council will be holding Adult Education Fairs in each borough this fall, and has already secured commitments from Borough Presidents Markowitz and Molinaro to co-sponsor fairs in Brooklyn and Staten Island. Much like a job fair, these events will provide a one stop shop for New Yorkers to meet with an array of service providers, have their needs assessed, and sign up for an appropriate program in their neighborhood.
Council Members will be doing outreach in their districts, targeting communities that tend to have a large number of New Yorkers without a high school diploma: people who live in public housing, immigrants, people who have been through the criminal justice system, recipients of public assistance, and disconnected youth.
The Council is partnering with the city’s three Public Library systems, which will be working with New Yorkers who visit the libraries’ workforce development centers and helping connect them to needed education services. In addition, the libraries will be linking their websites to the GED Compass, to make it easily accessible to all library users.
The Council will be working with the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs to help reach the many immigrants in New York City in need of a GED. The Council is also looking for additional opportunities to partner with City agencies and organizations to help get their message to New Yorkers.

The “Back to School” campaign is part of the Council’s efforts to reform a GED system that is widely viewed as broken. Less than 2% of New Yorkers who need a GED actually take the test each year. The few that do sign up often wait for months to take the exam, and then find half empty classrooms when they do. And many of them don’t get the preparation they need, resulting in pass rates of less than 50%.

In February, Speaker Quinn proposed a three-tiered plan to help to help improve the city’s GED testing system:

The Council, together with the Department of Education’s Office of Adult and Continuing Education and the Department of Small Business Services, will create a citywide pilot at Workforce 1 Career Centers that will connect individuals without a high school diploma to GED testing and test preparation courses.
The Council will work with the adult education and GED testing providers to encourage more individuals without a high school diploma to take preparation classes and also take an Official Practice Test (a simulated test mirrors the GED) before they take the GED test.
The Council will work closely with the Literacy Assistance Center, DOE and SBS to better coordinate the GED system, with a goal of streamlining access to services so that individuals can build skills, obtain a GED if needed and receive assistance in their job search.