Adult Education Documentary "Yesterday's Dropouts"- Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

Adult and Community Learning Services (ACLS)

Adult Education Documentary "Yesterday's Dropouts"

October 4, 2013

For Your Information - Anne Serino, Administrator, Adult and Community Learning Services

WAMU in Washington, D.C. is thrilled to announce Breaking Ground, a new radio documentary series that has just completed its first project -- Yesterday's Dropouts.

Every year more than one million students fail to graduate from high school on time. But we rarely explore what happens next. What are these students' lives like 10, 20, even 40 years after they leave the classroom? Do they ever get a second chance? Yesterday's Dropouts is a documentary about the 30 million dropouts in the U.S. and the hundreds of thousands who return to the classroom every year as adults. It's been years since these students dropped out of school, but the long shadow of their unfinished education still follows them every day.

You can listen to Yesterday's Dropouts at We encourage you to share this documentary with colleagues, friends, and others in your community, and to tell us what you think! You can reach us at

Yesterday's Dropouts will air in D.C. at 7pm tonight or you can listen to each of the four segments online:

An Unfinished Education
Approximately 30 million adults in the U.S. are at the low end of the literacy spectrum. They struggle to read a menu, a pay stub or a bus schedule. About 46 million find it challenging to do the most basic math. And for millions of adults, there's the added challenge of not being able to speak English.

America's Largest High School
The GED test was created so that military veterans whose education was interrupted by World War II could get a credential and go on to college. More than 18 million people have passed the test since it was introduced in 1942. But academic research finds the value of a GED credential is not even close to that of a high school diploma. Also, major changes coming to the test in 2014 make it more difficult, more expensive and will require adult students to have computer skills.

From Class to Career
A program used throughout Washington state shortens the time adults are in the classroom. It takes students, often high school dropouts, and places them in college level courses. The program uses a combination of team teaching, internships and extra supports to quickly boost student skills and get them into the workforce. The program has been so successful that more than 20 states are implementing some form of this model.

High Price for Low Literacy
When adults can't read, write or speak English well, whole communities are affected by their struggles. The economy suffers, and cities and states have to spend more on social services -- including unemployment checks, food stamps and subsidized housing. Adults who dropped out of high school are also disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system. They are less likely to vote and to volunteer, and there is also a burden on the health care and the K-12 school systems. But perhaps the biggest cost is one that can't be measured. It's the invisible cost of "what might have been," of not being able to fulfill your personal potential.

Kavitha Cardoza
Special Correspondent
WAMU 88.5 News
4401 Connecticut Avenue NW
Washington DC 20016

Last Updated: October 9, 2013

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