“Some people there are who, being grown; forget the horrible task of learning to read. It is perhaps the greatest single effort that the human undertakes, and he must do it as a child.” –John Steinbeck
But what about those who fail to become literate through traditional schooling? Low literacy continues to be a persistent problem among adults in the United States. Results from the National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL), available through the National Center for Education Statistics, found that 30 million adults have “below basic” literacy skills, with more than half of those scoring at this level not having a high school diploma or GED. This translates to nearly 1 out of every 6 adults, age 25 and older, across the country. This crisis has resulted in the following: (findings from the Report of the National Commission on Adult Literacy)
- U.S. Scores Poorly Internationally. The U.S. is the only country among 30 OECD free-market countries where the current generation is less well educated than the previous one.
- High School Dropout Rates Are Staggering. Every year, one in three young adults—more than 1.2 million people—drop out of high school.
- Low Parent Learning Affects Children. One in four U.S. working families is low-income, and one in five children lives in poverty. Parents and caregivers in many of these households lack the education and skills to earn a family-sustaining wage.
- Low Literacy in Burgeoning Prison Population. One in every 100 U.S. adults 16 and older is in prison or jail in America. About 43 percent do not have a high school diploma or equivalent, and 56 percent have very low literacy skills.
- Large and Growing English Language and Literacy Need. About 2 million immigrants come to the U.S. each year seeking jobs and better lives—the promise of America. About 50 percent of them have low literacy levels and lack high school education and English language skills, severely limiting their access to jobs and job training, college, and citizenship.
Yet despite the challenges, there is an incentive to overcome these obstructions. A better educated more literate population will improve our standard of living and offer benefits in the following ways:
- Higher rates of employment and better jobs
- Increases in personal income and individual economic well being
- Increases in voter participation, volunteerism and civic engagement
- Better health and more effective healthcare
- A greater fiscal contribution to our economy at all government levels
And at the very heart of this is you, an influential role model and innovator whose evidence-based approach to education will boost our country back into a position of global leadership; because effective education is the best investment we can make!