Friday, January 3, 2014

Why no literacy programs for 30 million in US?

Why no literacy programs for 30 million in US?
Tucson Sentinel: 12.11.2013 by David Noriega

There are currently more than 30 million adults in the United States whose ability to read, write, and do basic math is at or below the level of the average third grader.

Experts in the field agree that this is a problem that could be meaningfully addressed. Doing so, however, would require aggressive, coordinated investment on all levels of government, and the federal government has not provided the necessary leadership or funding. In fact, over the last decade, federal funding, adjusted for inflation, has gone down. State governments, too, have mostly failed to respond in any way that would suggest recognition that the epidemic of adult illiteracy is an emergency.

Experts and advocates suggest a number of reasons for this political lethargy, including a tendency among lawmakers to see low-skilled adults as undeserving or beyond repair, along with unreasonable expectations of progress without first providing meaningful investment. Whatever the cause, there has not been sufficient political will to do what is necessary to help the millions of adults in the country whose lack of basic literacy skills are major obstacles to a decent life.

“An undernourished system”

The extent of the adult literacy problem in the United States was made newly clear in October when, for the first time in a decade, an international survey organized by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) produced a comprehensive picture of adult skills in the U.S. The survey revealed not only the number of adults in the country lacking basic reading and math skills, but also that adults at the lowest skill levels were four times as likely to report poor health than those at the highest levels, a gap far larger than the international average.

While dreary, the results came as no surprise to those who work in adult education. The researchers, teachers and advocates we interviewed all acknowledged that the current system of adult basic education in the U.S. has long been unable to reach more than a fraction of the population that could benefit from its services.

Marcie Weadon-Moreno Foster, public policy chair for the National Coalition for Literacy and a policy analyst at CLASP, an anti-poverty group, said that out of the 36 million adults with the lowest skills, only about 5 percent have gained access to education programs. In other words, about 34 million have not gained access. There are waiting lists for such programs in all but one state, some stretching to a year’s time and hundreds of thousands of people.

“The number one issue is that we’re simply not providing the resources that we need to serve the students that we need to serve,” Foster said.  READ MORE !

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