Literacy Question Answers

1. The Adult Literacy in America report on a study initiated by Congress in 1988 and reported upon in 1993 was a $14 million 5-year study by the National Assessment Governing Board in conjunction with the National Center for Educational Statistics "based upon lengthy interviews of 26,049 adults [from 16 to 65 years old] in a dozen states." "They used careful demographics sampling [to statistically represent the entire U.S. population] with accurate proportions of males and females, [all age groups from 16 to 65 years old,] all ethnic and racial groups, and balanced for geographical location (urban, inner city, rural, etc.)." They used an innovative and objective way to measure functional literacy, the ability to use reading skill to perform the normal activities of modern life. The Educational Testing Service ensured that all interviewees were also monitored by outside testers. "Strict guidelines were set up for scoring responses, and data analysis was done by trained specialists at a central location. All test items were secured, and no school had access to any of the or even samples of them." They reported in 1993 that 92 million Americans, over 47% of adults, "read and write so poorly that it is difficult for them to hold an above-poverty-level-wage job." These results were verified in a report issued in 2006 by the same group of researchers as performed the 1993 study. The study reported upon in 2006 used 19,714 interviewees.
Source: (1) Mary Jordan, writer for The Washington Post, "Nearly Half of Adults in America Lack Necessary Skills, Study Says," The Salt Lake, September 9, 1993, p. A1, col. 2-3. (2) Diane McGuinness, Ph.D., Why Our Children Can't Read (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997), pp. 7-10. (3), a free. downloadable government report/ (4), a free, downloadable government report.

2. The American Management Association, a not-for-profit provider of management training based in New York, reported that the overall failure rate of job applicants to meet the minimum job requirements fo the jkob they sought fo the 1990s (until 1996, the year of the report) was 36.3%.
Source: Associated Press, "Job Seekers Can't Read Or Do Math," The Salt Lake Tribune, May 8, 1996, p. B12, col. 4-5.

3. The Literacy in the Labor Force report proved that more than 40% of employees in U.S. businesses are functionally illiterate.

4. Jonathan Kozol's book Illiterate America, updated with more recent newspaper articles, show that illiteracy costs the average taxpayer at least $5186 each year. This is made up of at least $100 billion for government programs providing services for illiterates and at least $590 billion for the increased labor costs for government and businesses and the higher consumer costs as a result of illiterates in the workplace each year, giving a total of at least $690 billion each year. Newspaper commentators believe that at least 30% of crime is due to illiterates. Using a more conservative estimate of 23% as the effect of illiteracy upon crime, 23% of the $450 billion annual cost of crime in the U.S. (which does not include the cost of running prisons, jails, and the probation and parole system, which would probably add another $40 billion) can be directly attributed to illiteracy, adding another $102 billion. A total of $792 billion ($692 billion plus $102 billion) divided by 152.8 million persons in the labor market in July 2007 (the latest date for which figures are readily accessible) results in at least $5186 as the cost to each taxpayer every year.
Source: (1) Jonathan Kozol, Illiterate America (Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1985), various places throughout the book, as summarized on the back jacket cover, (2) The Washington Post, "illiteracy 'Crisis' Scares U.S. Executives," Salt Lake Tribune, October 8, 1995, p. F8, col. 1-2. (3) Anne C. Lewis, special to The Baltimore Sun, "Press Misses Scary Story In Failing to Cover Literacy Adequately," The Salt Lake Tribune, September 14, 1989, p. A17, col. 2-3. (4) Associated Press, "U.S. Crime's Price Tag Runs $450 Billion a Year," The Salt Lake Tribune, April 23, 1996, p. A7.

5. The Pew Research Center plll showed that 88% of those polled considered education "very important." A 1993 magazine poll showed that "63% of Americans rate the quality of public education as poor or fair." A recent newspaper article said that parents seemed "desperate," sometimes standing in line all night to get their children enrolled in an elementary school that they thought would be better.
Source: (1) Pew Research Center poll, October 28-31, 1998. (2) Mark Clements, "What's Wrong With Our Schools," PARADE magazine, May 16, 1993, p. 4. (3) Richard Whitmire, for Gannett News Service, "Parents in 90s Desperate About Quality Education," The Salt Lake Tribune, April 7, 1996, p. A10, col. 1-2.

6. The U.S. high school students ranked 19th in international science and math competition with 20 other industrial nations, exceeding only Cyprus and South Africa. Asian nations were not included in the compteition; if Asian nations such as Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan had been included, the U.S. ranking had been included, the U.S. ranking would undoubtedly been worse tnan it was.
Source: Prime time major network news coverage on February 25, 1998.

7. U.S. Department of Education figures show that "75% of prison inmates and 85% of juveniles in correctional facilities are functionally illiterate." This compares to 47.8% of all adults in the U.S. who are functionally illiterate, as shown in question 1.
Source: Taylor Syphus, "He's Learning to Read," The Salt Lake Tribune, December 16, 1995, pp. E1 and E10.

8. Albert Shanker, president of The American Federation of Teachers, stated, "Ninety-five percent of the kids who go to college in the United States would not be admitted to college anywhere else in the world."
Source: Carol Innerst, "Schools 'Really Bad' Says AFT Leader," The Washington Times, July 6, 1990 as quoted by Dr.Bill Bennett's book The Index of Leading Cultural Indicators (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994), p. 89, an excellent source of educational and other measures of America's social problems.

9. The U.S. ranked 49th among 158 U.N. nations in 1983. More recent direct comparisons are not readily available, but a more recent comparison is available by comparing the above stated 47% illiteracy rate (or a 53% literacy rate) with the international literacy rate of 72%. It may well be that the evaluation criteria used in the international study was less rigorous than the U.s. study, but it should be noted that many other nations do not have mandatory elementary school education as does the U.S., and a much smaller percentage in many nations have enough education to achieve literacy. Furthermore, many nations do not try to ensure that every student can graduate from elementary school, as does the U.S. does. As a result, the "best and brightest" in many nations receive an education; the others "flunk out."
Source: (1) Jonathan Kozol's book, Illiterate America, pp. 5 and 226, which quotes The Washington Post, November 25, 1982 and Foundation News, January/February 1983. (2) "Numbers," Time magazine, July 26, 1999, p. 17.

10. Less than 4% of adult illiterates enroll in any of the government and private literacy programs. Only 15% of adult illiterates who enroll in literacy programs complete the eighth grade. The percentage of all adult illiterates who achieve eighth grade reading ability is about 0.04 times 0.15 or 0.6%.
Source: (1) Kozol's book Illiterate America, p. 5. (2) Carmen Hunter's and David Harman's book Adult Literacy in the United States (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1985), p. 165.

11. It has been pointed out that two million students drop out of school or graduate every year who cannot even read whatever diploma they may receive, and less than one percent fo them ever become proficient readers after leaving school, as question 9 shows.
Source: Rick Gladstone, Associated Press writer, "Reading Writing on the Wall? America May Face Literacy Crisis," The Salt Lake Tibune, February 21, 1988, p. F4, col. 1.

12. Frank Laubach stated in his books that students of 95% of the languages in which he taught became fluent readers in less than three months.
Source: (1) Frank C. Laubach, Forty Years With the Silent Billion, pp. 36 and 478. (2) Sanford S. Silverman, Spelling for the 21st Century, p. v.

13. It takes most of our students who learn to read well enough to become functionally literate two to four years!
Source: Rudolph Flesch, Why Johnny Can't Read, pp. 76-77.

14. All of the items wer included in Ms. Schouten's report.
Source: Fredreka Schouten, for Gannett News Service, " 'At Risk' Report 20 Years Later," The Salt Lake Tribune, April 20, 2003, p. A13.

15. The Greensboro, North Carolina October 1, 2009