graduates' literacy declines, according to test
New York Times
Dec. 16, 2005
The average American college graduate's literacy in English declined
significantly over the past decade, according to results of a nationwide test to
be released today. The National Assessment of Adult Literacy, given in 2003 by
the Department of Education, is the nation's most important test of how well
adult Americans can read.
The test also found steep declines in the English literacy of Hispanics in the
United States, and significant increases among Blacks and Asians.
When the test was last administered, in 1992, 40 percent of the nation's college
graduates scored at the proficient level, meaning that they were able to read
lengthy, complex English texts and draw complicated inferences.
But on the 2003 test, only 31 percent of the graduates demonstrated those
high-level skills. There were 26.4 million college graduates.
The college graduates who in 2003 failed to demonstrate proficiency included
53 percent who scored at the intermediate level and 14 percent who scored at the
basic level, meaning they could understand short prose texts.
Three percent of college graduates in 2003, representing some 800,000 Americans,
demonstrated "below basic" literacy, meaning that they could not perform more
than the simplest skills.
Grover J. Whitehurst, director of an institute within the Department of
Education that helped to oversee the test, said a rising number of young
Americans have spent their free time watching television and surfing the
"We're seeing substantial declines in reading for pleasure, and it's showing up
in our levels," he said. The study found that 11 million adults are not
About 29 percent of Backs scored at either the intermediate or proficient levels
in 1992, but in 2003, those rose to 33 percent. The percentage of Blacks
demonstrating "below basic" literacy declined from 30 percent to 24 percent.
Asians scoring at either the intermediate or proficient levels rose from 45
percent in 1992 to 54 percent.
The same period saw big declines in Hispanics' English reading skills. In 1992,
35 percent of Hispanics demonstrated "below basic" English literacy, but by 2003
that segment had swelled to 44 percent. And at the higher-performing end of the
literacy scale, the proportion of Hispanics demonstrating intermediate or
proficient English skills dropped from 33 percent in 1992 to 27 percent.