Adult High School Diploma Achievement in Baltimore

March 2019 / Abell Reports / Education, Workforce Development
image of graduation
This report examines how adults can earn a high school diploma in Baltimore City and what opportunities exist to improve outcomes for degree attainment.

The lack of a high school diploma both reflects and exacerbates some of the most severe inequities in our society. According to the U.S. Census American Community Survey, those with a high school diploma or its equivalent in Baltimore earn about $7,000 more a year than those without one (an estimated $28,396 versus $21,359). The lack of a high school credential restricts opportunities for further education and training—limiting access to the sort of postsecondary career training required for competitiveness in pursuing the region’s middle-skill jobs.

An estimated 81,000 Baltimore City adults (age 18 and over) are lacking a high school diploma—the absence of which leaves them at a considerable disadvantage in the current economy and is correlated with a host of other poor outcomes for individuals, their families, and the broader community.

In this Abell Foundation report, social policy analyst Martha Holleman examines the ways in which adults can earn a high school diploma in Baltimore City, how successful those programs have been, and what opportunities there are to improve outcomes around high school diploma attainment.

Thousands of Baltimore City residents enroll in adult education programs each year. Hundreds of City Schools’ students persist in a fifth year beyond their expected four-year graduation date. Hundreds more participate in the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development’s Youth Opportunity (YO) Program. Yet, few city residents actually gain a diploma through these alternative means. Though at best a guess, estimates from the data currently available indicate that an additional 370 Maryland high school diplomas are granted to city residents in a year.

There is, however, a growing recognition of the problem and an increasing desire to do something about it. Efforts include two new adult high schools set to launch in Baltimore and multiple programs reimagining the connection between adult education and occupational skills training.

The report offers the following recommendations:

  • Baltimore City should re-establish a leadership body dedicated to adult education and training and provide local funds to increase the number of adult residents with a high school diploma.
  • Current adult education programs and their funders should re-evaluate programming to accelerate high school diploma receipt.
  • Baltimore City Public Schools should move to put a priority emphasis on the return of young people ages 18-21 who have left school without graduating.
  • The Mayor’s Office of Employment Development should also review and restructure its YO Program to increase attendance, educational attainment, employment, and earnings among participants.
  • The Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation (DLLR) should explore alternative pathways to a high school diploma.
  • Agencies, programs, and funders should closely monitor and advocate for the continued development, implementation, and funding of Adult High Schools in Baltimore and Maryland.