10 Important Things to Know About the NEDP

by Janita McNemar

The NEDP is the National External Diploma Program, owned and operated by the non-profit assessment company CASAS. You may have heard the name NEDP bandied about in adult education circles and wondered what it is all about. These ten important points about NEDP will tell you more.

1. The NEDP has deep roots.
The NEDP (formerly “EDP”) was developed in response to a Ford Foundation study in the early 1970s that investigated why skilled, employed high school dropouts were not going back to adult education to earn their GED® or diploma. The results of this study reinforced what we know about andragogy from Malcolm Knowles, e.g.

    • Adults are self-directed when given the power to direct their learning.
    • Adults are experienced and should be given credit for what they already know.
    • Adults are more invested in learning when it is meaningful and relevant.

Adult education providers in New York developed the External Diploma Program to address these important factors, launching the EDP in the mid 1970s. The EDP was quickly adopted by a handful of other states by the early 1980s.

2. NEDP is a competency-based program. NEDP enrollees do have to earn cut scores on CASAS assessments to show that they are ready for the rigors of the work to come in the online portfolio, but that’s the end of the standardized testing in NEDP. There are no more multiple-choice questions and no more timed assessments. NEDP “clients” demonstrate mastery of the 70+ competencies in the program by answering open-ended questions in written and oral formats, building projects, creating spreadsheets, developing presentations, and completing other performance-based activities. 

3. NEDP Assessors do not instruct their own clients. NEDP clients have proven that their reading, writing, and math skills are strong enough to do the work in the online portfolio. Their Assessors guide them through the online portfolio by managing and evaluating their work. It would be a conflict for the person who is assessing to also provide content instruction. That does not mean that NEDP clients do not learn while they are in the program! Through access to resources and tutorials, as well as ample opportunities to practice and perform skills, clients certainly learn new things in the portfolio. And if they are struggling with a skill? Anyone except their own Assessor can provide instruction: an ABE teacher, tutor, friend, family member, or online resource. 

4. NEDP is a rigorous program. Some people may remember the paper-pencil EDP of yesteryear (circa 2013 and before). When CASAS took over NEDP, two major changes were made:

    • the program became web-based, and
    • the competencies were aligned with CASAS competencies and cross-walked with the College and Career Readiness Standards. 

These changes significantly increased the rigor of the NEDP. In addition, two elements continued that keep the expectations of NEDP participants high:

    • NEDP clients must demonstrate mastery of 100% of the competencies in the program, and 
    • demonstration of mastery is determined both by the Assessor and a Portfolio Reviewer. 

5. NEDP graduates earn a high school credential. NEDP graduates earn an adult high school diploma from their local school division or a credential from the state, depending on the location of the program. Therefore, there is no such thing as an “NEDP diploma.”

6. NEDP clients build and demonstrate academic and non-academic skills. NEDP practitioners will tell you that non-academic skills of self-management, agency, and tenacity are as vital to NEDP success as reading, writing, and math skills. NEDP clients work independently on a set of work, so they have to be able to manage their time well. NEDP clients will definitely have to reattempt some work that was found not to demonstrate mastery at some point in the program, so they have to be able to pick themselves up and try again. NEDP clients cannot be instructed by their Assessor, so they must build their own learning networks and develop problem solving strategies. As a result, NEDP graduates have shown not only that they have the academic skills of a high school graduate, but they have also demonstrated maturity and independence that will serve them in postsecondary education, training, and employment.

7. NEDP is available as a remote option. NEDP clients work independently on activities over a 1–2 week period. At the conclusion of that period, they meet with their Assessor, either remotely or face-to-face, for a proctored In-Office Check. Functionality for a remote In-Office Check was launched just two months into COVID-19 shutdowns, resulting in a persistence rate of over 75% in the first 4 months of COVID-19. This remote option means that agencies and clients have flexibility when it comes to program delivery. Clients may meet in the office when the conditions allow, but can meet their Assessors remotely due to COVID restrictions, bad weather, scheduling conflicts, childcare or transportation issues, or just as a matter of preference.

8. NEDP materials are reasonably priced. Costs paid to CASAS:

    • An annual agency maintenance fee is $1050
    • Seats (called “WEUs”) are $60 for Diagnostics and $60 for Generalized Assessment, or $120 for each client
    • CASAS eTests are about $3.75/test, depending on volume.

The only additional cost to the agency is in-house staffing and initial or replacement staff training.

9. NEDP reflects WIOA priorities. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) prioritizes workforce preparation activities as a crucial part of any adult education program, and of Integrated Education and Training (IET) in particular. WIOA defines workforce preparation activities as “activities, programs, or services designed to help an individual acquire a combination of basic academic skills, critical thinking skills, digital literacy skills, and self-management skills, including competencies in utilizing resources, using information, working with others, understanding systems, and obtaining skills necessary for successful transition into and completion of postsecondary education, training, or employment.” NEDP competencies align to all of these skills within the eight competency areas and the additional, individualized College and Career Competency.

10. NEDP data shows client progress. If successful graduates and dedicated Assessors are NEDP’s best advocates, data is a close third. NEDP clients earn at least two Measurable Skills Gains (MSGs) during the program: EFL advancement upon transition from the Diagnostic to Generalized Assessment phase, and another MSG upon program completion.  

Data also tells us some interesting information about NEDP clients:

    • Over half of NEDP enrollees graduate from the program.
    • NEDP graduates spend an average of 130 hours in the program
    • Months to graduation are:
      • Average 11.8
      • Median 9 months
      • Mode 8 months
    • Some NEDP graduates finish the program in as little as two months. 
    • Women make up about 65% of NEDP enrollees and 75% of graduates.
    • African-American clients make up about 37% of enrollees and about 50% of graduates.

To learn more about the NEDP, go to www.nedp.org, or reach out to us at nedp@casas.org.

Janita McNemarAfter a decade as a local adult education program coordinator in Virginia, Janita McNemar became the NEDP National Training Specialist in 2016. Janita’s training opportunities focus not only on preparing new agencies and new staff to offer the National External Diploma Program, but also on providing quality continuing professional development across the nine states offering NEDP.


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