"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Neither Sobering Nor Bleak

The AIR study (click here for pdf) examines literacy among college students in three areas: prose literacy, document literacy, and quantitative literacy.

In the last post, I noted that the study shows no change in the levels of quantitative literacy levels between current college students and adults who already hold college degrees. Put in the economic terms that instigated this study in the first place, if past American economic successess have hinged on quantitative literacy of college graduates, we may expect, then, to do no better nor worse than we have up to this point.

The really good news, however, is in the comparisons between current college students and former college graduates in the areas of prose literacy and document literacy:
Students in 2- and 4-year colleges had higher prose and document literacy than adults in the nation with similar levels of education (Figure 2.3). On the document scale, the scores for graduating seniors in 4-year institutions were 20 points higher than the scores of all adults in the United States who previously received a degree from a 4-year college or university (p. 24).
Looking closer, we can see, too, that there are lower numbers of students at the basic and below basic levels of literacy among both 2-year and 4-year students as compared to adults already holding 2 and 4 year degrees. This holds true for both prose literacy and document literacy. The trend, then, indicates significant improvement for those ranked lowest on the literacy scales.

Most interesting to K-12 educators is the finding that in all three areas of literacy, college students who graduated from American high schools scored higher than college students who graduated from foreign high schools. The following quote does not mention the American advantage in quantitative literacy because the differences there were not statistically signficant, even though those differences were also in favor of US high schools (USA high school grads--331 foreign high school grads--320):
Students enter U.S. institutions of higher learning with different educational backgrounds, some obtaining their high school diploma from U.S. schools and others graduating from foreign schools. Among students in 4-year institutions, the prose and document literacy of U.S. high school graduates was higher than the literacy of their peers who graduated from foreign high schools. Similarly, average literacy across the three scales was higher for students in 2-year institutions who graduated from U.S. high schools compared with the literacy of students who graduated from foreign schools (Figure 4.5) (p. 38).

That's enough for now, except to paste up this sad piece of plagiarism that has boiled down the initial misleadiing Feller article to this compact lie:

Literacy Study Is Bleak

January 21, 2006 8:01 a.m. EST
Andrea Moore - All Headline News Staff Reporter

Washington, DC (AHN) - A new literacy study found more than one half of students at four year colleges and at least 75 percent at two year colleges, lack the literacy to handle complex, real-life tasks such as understanding credit card offers.

The study, funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts, is the first to focus on skills of graduating students which look at three types of literacy: analyzing news stories and other prose, understanding documents and having math skills needed for checkbooks or restaurant tips.

The study shows that students cannot interpret a table about exercise and blood pressure, understand the arguments of newspaper editorials, compare credit card offers with different interest rates and annual fees or summarize results of a survey about parental involvement in school.

However, the average literacy of college students is still significantly higher than that of adults across the nation. Researchers said that was encouraging but not surprising, given that the spectrum of adults includes those with much less education.

Unbelievable to anyone who doesn't know the history of media coverage on education issues.

More interesting findings in the next post regarding the advantages of educational experiences based in analytic and critical thinking.

1 comment:

  1. Maybe I'm reading the wrong newspapers, but I find myself frequently not understanding the arguments presented therein.