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Launching from Brokenness to Success

by Monica Ferebee

“In order for our students to succeed within and outside of our programs and achieve their high school equivalency diploma, we must examine their educational inadequacies or the students will continue to repeat the cycle of falling short of their desired educational and career goals.”

rocket launchingCrayons and people are colorful and yet, often broken. Do we just throw them away? No, we mend and piece them back together. There are broken students who have been mentally , physically, socially, and financially deprived or abused. These students have dropped out of high school and entered our GED® programs. Recently, we have been acting in the role of not only instructors, but also counselors, friends, parents, and life-coaches. Most of us who have taught within GED® programs for years have witnessed the hurt and suffering, pitfalls, and often unsuccessful attempts of our students. As educators, we spend quality time and invest in them, embracing every flaw and shortcoming. There are GED® programs which care about their students’ wants and needs, and strive to invest in their educational and employment successes. In order for our students to succeed within and outside of our programs and achieve their high school equivalency diploma, we must examine their educational inadequacies or the students will continue to repeat the cycle of falling short of their desired educational and career goals.

First, we must look at the numerous reasons why they opted to drop out of high school. Those reasons often include lack of academic successes and preparation, excessive tardiness and truancy, pregnancy and numerous sick days, disengagement, financial hardships/homelessness, prescriptive and illicit drug addictions, mental and physical disabilities, and behavioral issues (suspensions and expulsions). High school dropout rates in the United States are below 7% and have fluctuated at less than 0.4% at a steady rate annually since 1970 for several reasons, with the main reasons having more support programs (U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2019).

census information on the high school dropout rate from 2015-2019

Secondly, within GED® preparation programs, we must continue to expose, encourage, and groom students with meaningful materials, practices, and educational and life skills lessons. Students strive for things from which they can understand and grasp—within reach. Many of our GED® preparation programs provide services to individuals who have been broken and disengaged within school systems due to previous underlying conditions. According to Doll et al. (2013) there are “pivotal events which lead to dropout” (p. 1) and involve the culmination of events that they term as the push, pull, and falling out factors. The push factors include school-related disciplinary consequences, the pull factors include out-of-school enticements like jobs and family, and the falling out factors involve the students becoming disengaged without the push or pull factors being agents.

The complexity of these issues has been examined by Doll et al. (2013) and several others, and many GED® preparation programs have allied with others to bring about changes that will not only benefit the students; but also the families, communities, and government. Let’s start with instruction. Today, most schools are offering more than interactive, integrative, and cooperative learning. With the recent COVID-19 pandemic, most schools have included distance and blended learning. This is more accommodating to those students who work and have limited time, lack transportation, have families, or possess a variety of ailments or disabilities. With the introduction of distance and blended learning throughout the country, it will be interesting to analyze the dropout rates in the new findings or studies.

With the available and ever-increasing learning opportunities, students that were once colorful and then became disengaged, slighted, and/or damaged; now have a better chance of success. Not only can these students become successful within the classroom, but also outside of the classroom with the introduction of more career-readiness programs, trade schools, college fairs, and job fairs. Now is the time to collect the dull, broken crayons and mend them together for a brighter future.

Learn More:

Fear and Learning: Trauma-Related Factors in the Adult Education Process
Trauma and Adult Learning
Trauma Impacts Adult Learners: Here’s Why
How Trauma Impacts the Brains of Adult Learners
How Trauma Impacts Your Adult Client Learners and What You Can Do About It – video
Tool for Transformation: Cooperative Inquiry as a Process for Healing from Internalized Oppression
Healing from the Effects of Internalized Oppression
Racial Equity Tools: Addressing Trauma and Healing


Doll, J. J., Eslami, Z., & Walters, L. (2013). Understanding why students drop out of high school, according to their own reports. SAGE Open. https://doi. org/10.1177/2158244013503834

U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2019). Table 219.75.: Percentage of high school dropouts among persons 16 to 24 years old (status dropout rate) and percentage distribution of status dropouts, by labor force status and years of school completed: Selected years, 1970 through 2018 [Data set]. Digest of Education Statistics. https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d20/tables/dt20_219.75.asp

Monica FerebeeMonica Ferebee is a 17-year veteran educator of the Chesapeake public school system with more than 23 total years of experience in teaching and ten-plus years in the Chesapeake Adult and Continuing Education program. Monica received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Norfolk State University and her educational specialist degree from Old Dominion University. Monica is a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.