Adulty Literacy & High School Dropout Rates

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Adult literacy statistics for the United States are disconcerting to say the least. Although not an old problem, it seems as if adult illiteracy is an epidemic that has taken on a new urgency as we as a society move into a more rapidly-changing, diversified global environment. When I began my research, I was surprised and disheartened by the amount of confusing and contradictory information on adult literacy, especially for my state of Pennsylvania. Exactly what was being measured, how it was being measured, and who was being measured all seemed to vary depending on which study I read. Nonetheless, the information I did manage to find and decipher was disturbing despite the way you choose to spin the data. Perhaps the most troublesome fact that I came upon compared U.S. adults with adults from 20 other “high income” countries. In this study, the United States ranked 12th on literacy tests, with 20 percent of Americans being labeled as functionally illiterate and unable to read above a 5th grade level (Education Portal, 2007). As one of the most formidable, powerful countries on the planet, ranking 12 out of 20 in such an important category, in my mind, is unacceptable. I was equally frustrated when I discovered that Pennsylvania had similar adult literacy statistics, with over four million adults lacking the basic literacy education skills necessary for self-sufficiency, not to mention gainful employment (Pennsylvania Workforce Improvement Network). So what is the problem? What is the underlying cause for this disturbing reality? Why can a nation, that since 2001 has liberated over 27.6 million Iraqis from dictatorship, NOT figure out a successful way to eradicate adult illiteracy within the confines of its own borders? The cold hard facts are that a prime suspect, if you will, in the war on adult illiteracy is our nation’s harrowing high school dropout rate. To say that there is a direct correlation between the two is a...
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