[Assessment 1434] Re: Where does the reading problem go?

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Wendy Quinones teacherwendyq at gmail.com
Sat Sep 27 11:41:55 EDT 2008

What a fascinating question, Tom! In an ice-breaker activity this year, my
GED-level students chose to ask each other that very question: How do you
rate your reading skills? In a mixed class of immigrants and
native-speakers, the answers varied, but not in the way we might think. At
least one of the immigrants rated his reading as "excellent," while most of
the others said "pretty good" or "poor." One of the native-speakers rated
her reading as "excellent" (which I have already come to doubt) while the
others were less sanguine. I haven't had them in class long enough to make
my own judgment, but I'll be paying more attention after this.

Of course, these are people who definitely want to move out of their
"literacy niche," (great term) at least enough to get a GED and a better
job. I'm not sure they think of what they are doing as necessarily
improving their literacy; rather they think they just have to pass the
test. * *I hope they have a different idea by the time they get out of my

Wendy Quinones
On Fri, Sep 26, 2008 at 7:11 PM, <tsticht at znet.com> wrote:

> September 26, 2008


> Where does the reading problem go when children grow up?


> Tom Sticht

> International Consultant in Adult Education


> Each year you can count on numerous reports and news articles being written

> about reading education in the K-12 school system of the United States.

> Without exception, these reports give the impression that we need to spend

> billions of dollars more on teaching children to read earlier

> (e.g.,universal preschool) and better.


> But if America's public schools aren't doing a good job of teaching

> reading,

> you wouldn't know it when the children have grown up and are asked as

> adults

> how well they read. Overwhelmingly, our nation's adults think they read

> Well

> or Very Well.


> The 1992 National Adult Literacy Survey (NALS) asked adults to rate

> their own reading skills as they perceived them. In a report on the

> Literacy of Older Adults in America, from the National Center for

> Education Statistics in Washington, DC, November 1996, the authors

> reported (p. 43) that adults aged 16 to 59 rated themselves as reading

> Very Well-72%, Well-22% and Not Well/Not At All-7%. Overall, then, some

> 93% of adults in this age range rated themselves as reading Well or Very

> Well.


> When broken out by ethnic groups, ratings were


> Whites: Very Well-77%, Well-21%, or Not Well/Not At All-3%.

> Blacks: Very Well-67%, Well-27% and Not Well/Not At All-6%.

> Hispanics: Very Well-46%, Well-22% and Not Well/Not At All-32%


> In this analysis, only Hispanics reported a high percentage, 32 percent, or

> 5.3 million adults, who thought they could not read English Well or Very

> Well, no doubt reflecting the large immigrant population in this category

> with less education and poorer English language skills than U.S. born

> adults. Among both Blacks and Whites, poor reading appears to be a

> perceived problem for only 3 to 6 percent of these populations, about 4.5

> million adults in the age range 16-59.


> Interestingly, when the average proficiencies of Whites and

> Blacks on the NALS Prose scale were compared, it was found that for

> Whites who rated themselves as reading Very Well, their average Prose

> proficiency was 308, well above average, whereas for Blacks rating

> themselves as reading Very Well, their Prose average proficiency

> was 259, well below average.


> Perhaps when children grow up and get out of the pre-K-12 world they

> adapt to the ambient literacy demands of a cultural niche that they find

> possible to occupy. They find jobs they can qualify for, they get

> information from sources they have access to and feel comfortable in

> using, and as they slip ever more firmly into their literacy niche, they

> feel more and more satisfaction with their literacy skills. Maybe this is

> why so many U.S. adults think they read Well or Very Well, despite their

> poor performance on literacy tests. This raises the possibility that if

> they are using themselves as a standard, many adults are not able to judge

> whether or not their children are learning to read Well or Very Well in

> school and fail to take action on behalf of failing children.


> Today, our nation's Adult Education and Literacy System remains

> marginalized, operating with an average of $820 per enrollee, including

> both federal and state funds. This is less than 10 percent of what we spend

> per child in the K-12 system. Strangely, though federal and state

> governments have provided tens of billions of dollars in mostly failed

> attempts to improve the reading skills of children, once the children grow

> up their reading problems seem to go away. I wonder why?


> Thomas G. Sticht

> tsticht at aznet.net



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