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Commentary: Adult Basic Education Achieves High Pass Rate in Washington State Prisons

August 7, 2017

By Mike Paris , Educational Services Administrator

Department of Corrections


GED® test preparation class at Larch (Heather Williams, Larch Public Information Officer)

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Increasing literacy in prisons is the foundation for improving the lives of incarcerated people. The Department of Corrections is achieving this objective. Providing education within the walls of prisons lowers recidivism, creates better behavior and increases employment rates after release.

Corrections partners with the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges. Together we work with local colleges near prisons to deliver high-quality education programs including basic education, vocational training and academic degrees.

Year-end data for fiscal year 2017 shows local colleges serving prisons have achieved an excellent pass rate of 87 percent for incarcerated students that have completed all four tests, compared to 79 percent nationally.

Students in the prison education system earned 758 GED® test credentials in fiscal year 2017. That’s 214 more than last year, an improvement of 39 percent. Coyote Ridge Corrections Center had the highest increase in the actual number of GED® test credentials earned. Olympic Corrections Center had the largest percentage increase, at 107.

GED® AWARDED BY FACILITY – Fiscal Years (FY) 2016 & 2017

Prison Facility FY 2016 FY 2017 Growth Percentage Change
Airway Heights 69 91 22 32%
Cedar Creek 12 15 3 25%
Clallam Bay 24 41 17 71%
Coyote Ridge 68 133 65 96%
Larch 30 46 16 53%
Mission Creek 13 16 3 23%
Monroe 92 109 17 18%
Olympic 15 31 16 107%
Stafford 33 48 15 45%
Washington CC 67 58 -9 -13%
Washington CC for Women 15 28 13 87%
Washington State Penitentiary 106 142 36 34%
TOTAL 544 758 214 39%

In 2014, the GED® requirement moved from a paper and pencil test to a computerized testing system. This created new challenges for the teachers and administrators of the program, but the results have been very positive. We’re extremely proud of the great work being done through our education partners in prisons. The colleges have really stepped up and met the challenges head on. Because of this, we have people releasing from prison who are better prepared to meet the challenges of returning to their communities to rebuild their lives.

The credit goes to staff and faculty at the eight colleges working inside prisons including: Walla Walla Community College, Edmonds Community College, Spokane Community College, Peninsula College, Grays Harbor College, Clark College, Centralia College, and Tacoma Community College.

Completing the GED® test is the ultimate goal of Adult Basic Education. Offering these programs in prisons certainly create a milestone and pathway to further education such as a vocational certificate or academic degree. However, the colleges have many students who will not achieve this credential, due to time constraints. It’s important to note many students in these programs see increases in literacy levels that can be related to advancement in grade level equivalency.

It is essential citizens of Washington understand an investment in inmate education translates to safer communities and a reduction in crime.