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Helping Adults Finally Achieve That HS Diploma

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Helping Adults Finally Achieve That HS Diploma

Queens Library, N.Y.

Education - Children & Adults | Top Innovator

Innovation Synopsis

Queens Library expanded its high school equivalency diploma preparation services to include on-site testing, remedial and preparatory tutoring, and referrals to support social services. The validation is a highly-publicized Adult Commencement event, with caps, gowns, processional music, a reception for families and celebrated keynote speakers.


Queens, NY, lags behind the NYC average in its percentage of high school graduates. With nearly half the county speaking a language other than English, there are challenges aplenty. Adults who have already failed to achieve a diploma face economic hardships and most have already been let down by their traditional schools and often by other classes and courses that could not get them across the finish line. They face frustration, embarrassment, and possible learning challenges, and often encounter social barriers to learning, such as lack of child care or transportation problems.

Key Elements of Innovation

In 2013, Queens Library began doing on-site testing for NY’s online high school equivalency exam at its Adult Learning Centers. There is a diagnostic “readiness” pre-test. Queens Library refers students to a customized schedule of preparation and tutoring. They also refer to social service partners who ease barriers to learning. To validate the achievement, the library holds a commencement with all the pomp and ceremony of traditional high schools: key note addresses by congressional representatives, college presidents, and other VIPs. It is a huge hit with citywide press, helping spread the word and make our graduates proud.

Achieved Outcomes

Over the past three years, more than 300 proud high school graduates attended Commencement. Many more earned that coveted diploma and even more are working toward the future. That high school diploma is the most impactful piece of paper they will ever have, aside from a marriage license or birth certificate. They cite the library’s low pressure, supportive approach as being pivotal to success. They will all be lifelong library lovers. The library gets sterling press coverage for the program at the time of year when our budget is being decided. It inspires others.