Are we having a U.S. literacy crisis?
Accept the challenge of these 15 questions to check your literacy awareness.


  1. According to statistics on front page newspaper articles in September, 1993, reporting on "the most comprehensive literacy study ever done by the U.S. government," what percentage of U.S. adults "read and write so poorly that it is difficult for them to hold an above-poverty-level-wage job."?
    17%27%37%47%
  2. In a 1998 study of job applicants to major U.S. firms by the American Management Association, what percentage of applicants "lacked sufficient reading and math skills to do the job they sought"?
    16%26%36%46%
  3. According to the most extensive and statistically accurate study of U.S. adult literacy ever commissioned by the federal government, what percentage of employees in U.S. businesses is functionally illiterate?
    10%20%30%40%50%
  4. The average U.S. taxpayer pays at least what amount each year for (1) tax revenue that goes for government programs that illiterates use, (2) tax revenue that goes to pay for police, court, and jail or prison costs directly related to truancy, juvenile delinquency, or crimes committed by illiterates, and (3) increased costs for consumer goods because of the cost of recruiting, training in basics that should have been learned in school, prevention of mistakes and correction of mistakes and inabilities of illiterates in the U.S. work force?
    $3186$4186$5186$6186
  5. An October 28-31, 1998, poll by Pew Research Center asked the importance of various national issues to those polled. More people chose education as "very important" than any other national issue. What percentage of people named education as "very important"?
    58%68%78%88%
  6. What was the ranking of the U.S. in international competition with 20 other nations in science and math as reported in newspapers on February 25, 1998?
    1st7th13th19th
  7. U.S. Department of Education figures from December 1995 show that what percentage of inmates in U.S. prisons are functionally illiterate?
    45%55%65%75%
  8. In a July 5, 1990 report in The Washington Times, Albert Shanker, President, American Federation of Teachers, is quoted as saying that what percentage of "the kids who go to college in the United States would not be admitted to college anywhere else in the world."?
    65%75%85%95%
  9. According to a Washington Post article on Nov. 25, 1982 and a Foundation News report, Jan./Feb. 1983, what was the U.S. literacy ranking among the 158 nations of the U.N. (in 1983)? (The answer, which follows, shows a more recent comparison of worldwide literacy—facts hard to put into question form.)
    9th19th29th39th49th
  10. According to Carmen Hunter's and David Harman's book, Adult Literacy in the United States, published in 1985, what percentage of adult illiterates complete enough training after leaving elementary or high school to achieve the equivalent of eighth grade reading ability?
    0.6%1.6%11.6%21.6%31.6%
  11. According to a February 21, 1988 newspaper report, the number of functionally illiterate adults is growing by how many every year?
    1 million1.5 million2 million2.5 million3 or more million
  12. Frank Laubach taught adults to read in 300 languages. He found that in 295 languages other than English (98% of them), his students could learn to read fluently in what period of time?
    less than 3 monthsless than 6 monthsless than 9 monthsless than 12 monthsless than 24 months
  13. What is the average amount of time required for those who learn to read well enough in U.S. schools to become functionally literate?
    3 to 6 monhs6 to 9 months9 to 12 months1 to 1-1/2 years1-1/2 to 2 years2 to 4 years
  14. Following the April 6, 1983 Nation At Risk report there "was a movement to raise standards, improve schools and hold educators and students accountable for academic performance" according to Fredreka Schouten of Gannet News Service. Ms. Schouten studied the results of twenty years of improvement effort following the Nation At Risk report. Her study was reported in newspapers on April 20, 2003. The following is a list of items that she may or may not have included in her report. If you think that any part of one or more of these items were NOT included in her report, click False below. Otherwise click True.
    1. More than one third of college freshmen and sophomores in the 1999-2000 school year had taken at least one remedial class in college.
    2. Reading scores of 9-year-olds are flat (essentially unchanged since 1983).
    3. High school seniors recently ranked near the bottom in a 23 nation comparison of math and science scores.
    4. Almost 60% of high school seniors scored below basic levels in recent U.S. history tests.
    5. Average scores on the verbal portion of SAT college entrance tests were 503 in 1983 and 504 in 2002.
    6. Average ACT college entrance tests were 19.9 in 1983 and 20.5 in 2002.
    7. Manufacturers recently claimed that about half of their employee training costs are for remedial work.
    8. Seventy-eight percent of high school teachers presently believe high school graduates have the skills needed to succeed in the workplace.
    9. Forty-one percent of employers presently believe high school graduates have the skills they need to succeed in the workplace.
    10. Forty-seven percent of college professors believe high school graduates are ready for college.
    True False
  15. According to a 2009 study by the management consulting firm McKinsey & Co., the gap between the academic achievement levels of the U.S. and better performing nations, such as Finland and Korea, knocked off as much as how much off the gross domestic product (GDP) of the U.S. in 2008? (As a reference point, the 2008 health care costs in the U.S. were about 16% of GDP.)
    $1.15 trillion (8% of GDP)$1.72 trillion (12% of GDP)$2.3 trillion (16% of GDP)$2.86 trillion (20% og GDP)
For the answers and source references click here