Flexibility in goal-setting and homework completion is possibly the foremost factor in a student’s success in the GED program. Since the living situations of homeless and low-income individuals can be unstable, it is critical that teachers tailor their lesson plans to the specific needs of their students. Rather than taking a punitive approach when a student is unable to complete an assignment or attend a class, his/her teacher should create a schedule with the student’s counselor that allows him/her to successfully reintegrate into the program. This can be accomplished by creating progress checks that assess a student’s completed tasks, as well by allowing a student to self-study for the time being until he/she is able to settle the personal issue he/she is dealing with. That way, a student can take time off from class when need be while still retaining the information he/she has learned in the program, thus preserving progress despite missing out on guided instruction over a short period of time (1-2 weeks).
After homeless students experienced low retention and persistence rates at Quinsigamond Community College in Worcester, Massachusetts, at the end of the academic year, the school implemented flexibility measures in their curriculum. They introduced these measures through their “Learner Persistence Project”, which afforded students greater flexibility when submitting their assignments. Instead of having their students submit homework on a daily basis, the school allowed its students to complete home study with the following support from the program: a weekly call from a counselor, flexibility in a return date, and work assignments. However, this “stop-out” in learning still ensured that students were obtaining passing grades by implementing progress checks, where students were able to see how far they have come in their education. The results after introducing this program were positive: learning gains increased dramatically from 13% in 2007 to 44% in 2008 (These were measured by having students take end-course exams).
These results were corroborated by Gopalakrishnan (2008), who evaluated data from three programs offered in Connecticut for adults in secondary education: the National External Diploma Program (NEDP), the General Educational Development (GED) Program, and the Adult High School Diploma Program (AHSCDP). The GED program had strict rules for when students would meet in class while the NEDP was structured such that students met with an instructor once per week for approximately two hours and completed most of their instruction on their own time (Gopalakrishnan, 2008). About 65% of those in GED programs did not return the following year to work on their GED even though less than 20% passed the GED-the opposite of the results from the NEDP and AHSCDP programs in which 67% and 63% returned, respectively (Gopalakrishnan, 2008).
Thus, flexible schedules and the self-study component are proven to be successful amongst students because it alleviates their stress by giving them spare time to address other critical issues in their lives.