This I Believe

Doris - Falls Church, Virginia
Entered on October 26, 2007

I believe my dyslexic son’s path to a high school diploma could raise America’s high school graduation rates. A little known alternative allowed him to prove his abilities.

The National External Diploma Program (NEDP), an adult high school diploma option, is a fair way to evaluate a dyslexic’s high-school level abilities. Real-life tasks are demonstrated to an assessor, and there is little multiple choice testing. Many stress out and drop out because multiple choice tests make it difficult for dyslexics to show what they know.

My son’s uncharted trail to NEDP began as public school failed him. After six years of special education instruction, Eli was far behind his peers. So when he was 11, my husband and I decided to homeschool him. I was determined to give him the chance school did not. I focussed on his strengths — comprehension and math — while addressing his weaknesses. How he was to earn a diploma I was not sure, but I knew the priority needed to be literacy first.

After homeschooling for six years, I took Eli back to public school because I believed he needed it and was ready for it. The special education team at the local high school told Eli many years of multiple choice testing were ahead of him. No one at high school knew about NEDP. Not one to give up, I began exploring adult education possibilities and was overjoyed and amazed that such an appropriate option existed. But because NEDP is an adult program, Eli was not allowed to go to high school with his peers while completing it.

Eli had to wait until he turned 18 before he could pay to enroll in NEDP. And in one year he was done. As Eli walked across stage in cap and gown congratulated by school board members and the superintendent, he was handed a saying along with his adult diploma that hangs in a golden frame by my family’s front door: “Do not go where the path leads; rather, go where there is no path and leave a trail.”

I believe the path through high school Eli needed – but could not find — and many others still need should be built. If Eli’s story encourages school systems to clear such a path and allow NEDP in high school, I believe I will have done what my son urged me to do after his graduation: “Go help the children, Mom,” he advised, “like you helped me.”