Education: Breaking the Diploma Barrier

Every Wednesday and Thursday night, John L. Smith goes to a janitor's closet in the Kansas City, Mo., Federal Office Building and rolls out a battered metal dolly. It holds a filing cabinet full of academic-achievement tests, a carton of mimeographed math and reading drills, and a pile of pocket-size dictionaries. "This is our school," he says. In the past five years, the cart's contents have brought 2,500 school dropouts all they need to crack the barrier between them and a better job: a high school equivalency diploma.

Smith's unusual night school, conducted in...

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