Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Functionally Illiterate In DC - I Wonder If They Included Congress?

This article reported on a study which was done in the District of Columbia that found that one-third of the people living in our nation's capital are functionally illiterate, compared with about one-fifth nationally. Adults are considered functionally illiterate if they have trouble doing such things as comprehending bus schedules, reading maps and filling out job applications.

Can you imagine? One Fifth of this country is illiterate in this day and age? And how much do we spend on education? How many billions? How many government sponsored reading programs do we have? Is anyone asking whether they are effective or not? or are we just throwing more money at it in hopes of something will work?

The study was done by the State Education Agency, which is a quasi-governmental office created by the U.S. Department of Education to distribute federal funds for literacy services. The study was requested to be done by Mayor Anthony A. Williams in 2003 as part of his four-year, $4 million adult literacy initiative.

The study found that a growing number of Hispanic and Ethiopian immigrants who aren't proficient in English contributed to the city's high functional illiteracy level, which translated to 170,000 people. I don't think they ought to be confusing the issues of recent immigrants learning English as a second language with functional illiteracy. That's just totally misleading, and makes me think that this was inserted as a ploy to get more education funding.

The report says the district's functional illiteracy rate is 36 percent and the nation's 21 percent. The report also found that adults age 65 and older had the lowest literacy score of any group.

The District of Columbia Chamber of Commerce, which contributed to the report, said the city lost up to $107 million in taxes annually between 2000 and 2005 because of a lack of qualified job applicants. Hmmm.. I wonder if they were counting in those folks over 65 - who may just not be looking for a job at the moment. Somehow I think parts of this study may be flawed.

Another report also cites these statistics:
Nationally, the rate of functional illiteracy is 21%. A study done in 2000 showed a similar rate of functional illiteracy in Great Britain, where over one-fifth of the population -- over seven million people -- were found to be functionally illiterate.

A study done by the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development in 2003 compared literacy and numeracy rates in Bermuda, Canada, Italy, Norway, Switzerland, and the United States. Among this group, the United States came in fifth out of six. Only Italy had a worse rate of literacy/numeracy.
Looks like clarion call will go out for even MORE education funding in DC, as well as for the rest of the country. The question remains... is the money we are spending on literacy in DC or in the rest of the nation being used effectively on programs that work?

(H/T Leann S.)