Saturday, December 31, 2005

Letting Literacy Slip --

Editorial from the Atlantic Journal-Constitution, Published on: 12/30/05

Finally, someone is getting the point! (The emphasis is mine.)

At every level of education, Americans are faltering in their ability to grasp a newspaper story or a passage in a book.

This skill is known as prose literacy, and it's declining even among well-educated Americans. The latest sampling of adult literacy by the National Center for Education Statistics found a 10 percentage point drop in graduate students who tested proficient in prose literacy in 2003 compared to the last time it was measured in 1992.

There was also a marked slip among college students testing proficient; 40 percent in 1992 and 31 percent in 2003.

The National Assessment of Adult Literacy gauges Americans' fluency in reading text and documents such as maps and labels. It also looks at quantitative literacy, a person's ability to understand tax forms, tables or bank statements.

To be ranked proficient, an adult has to be able to read and extract information from complex materials, such as legal documents. "No group, not even those with the highest levels of formal education, had an average in the proficient level on any of the scales," says National Center for Education Statistics commissioner Mark Schneider.

The sampling found that 13 percent of adults demonstrated "below basic prose literacy." According to Schneider, that translates to 30 million Americans who "could not do much more than sign a form or search a simple document to find out what they are allowed to drink before a medical test."

What's hard to understand is how literacy is falling at the same time that schools are making reading their top priority.

The poor showing on the national literacy assessment even among college grads ought to generate discussion at both state and federal levels about whether test-driven reform is creating better test-takers rather than better readers. As schools concentrate more resources on teaching kids how to bubble in the correct answers on standardized tests, less time is available to develop critical thinking skills...

Yep, that's it I'd say. You might ask yourself, Why would the powers that be want a nation that can fill in bubbles might not think critically? Hmmm...

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