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Hartford Adult Education Is Ending Credit Diploma Program

JODIE MOZDZER

April 10, 2009

Maria Ortiz knows well the different paths that lead to a high school diploma.

Ortiz, 46, dropped out of Hartford Public High School in the ninth grade to get a full-time job at McDonald's when her parents got divorced.

"I was the oldest," Ortiz said. "I had to go to work full time to help my family."

Over the next 20 years, Ortiz tried three times to pass the General Educational Development (GED) exam.

Now Ortiz is about to get her diploma through a different program from Hartford Adult Education: the adult high school credit diploma program. But as her decades-long effort to get her diploma is winding down, so is the program that has helped adult students like Ortiz finish their high school educations.

At the end of the school year, the district will stop the credit diploma program, one of three ways Connecticut adults have been able to complete high school. In the program, students take classes to earn credits toward a diploma, similar to a traditional high school.

School officials called the program a "watered-down" version of high school, and said it was mostly filled with Hartford students aged 16 to 18 who had dropped out of high school.

"We were committing a fraud," said Superintendent Steven J. Adamowski through his spokesman David Medina. "We were providing a watered-down, easy version of the high school diploma. And through the program we were keeping the legacy of poverty in place."

The district plans to address the high number of students who drop out of school with a new alternative high school that will open in the fall specifically for students who are falling behind in their studies.The school will only accept students 18 and younger.

That leaves adults in Hartford a city where 38 percent of the people 18 and older never finished high school with one less option for a high school diploma.

"It's not fair," Ortiz said.

The state requires districts to offer at least one adult education diploma program. Other routes include the GED program, which helps students practice for the GED test, and the external diploma program, where students can get credits for life skills. The GED and external diploma programs will continue to operate under the Hartford Adult Education program next year.

Paul Flinter, the bureau chief for the state's adult education office, said the state has mixed feelings about the end of Hartford's credit diploma program.

"A part of us is in agreement. We don't like the idea of so many young persons in a credit diploma program," Flinter said. "We also know the credit high school diploma program does form an avenue for an older person. And we don't want to see that go."

Hartford's program enrolled about 1,000 students before the district began phasing it out.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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