[AAACE-NLA] Thank you for your commentary/op ed
Margaret T. Park
MPark at cde.ca.gov
Thu Aug 21 13:30:23 EDT 2008
Dear Mr./Dr. Sticht:
I'm in total agreement with your statements and I regularly read your emails, saving some for our monthly statewide AE Digest, too.
How do you suggest we proceed at the local/state levels?
Margi Park, Education Programs Consultant
CA Department of Education - Adult Education Office
From: aaace-nla-bounces at lists.literacytent.org [mailto:aaace-nla-bounces at lists.literacytent.org] On Behalf Of tsticht at znet.com
Sent: Wednesday, August 20, 2008 12:26 PM
To: aaace-nla at lists.literacytent.org
Subject: [AAACE-NLA] Reading Today op ed
The following advocacy article is from the Vol. 26, No. 1, August/September
2008 issue of Reading Today (p. 29), the official newspaper of the
International Reading Association with a readership in excess of 160,000
literacy educators. To learn more about the International Reading
Association see the web page at www.reading.org.
A Nation Still at Risk
Thomas G. Sticht
"Our Nation is at risk. ...If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to
impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today,
we might well have viewed it as an act of war."
These statements come from the U. S. National Commission on Excellence in
Education's devastating 1983 report, A Nation at Risk. Among the
indicators of the risk facing America were the findings that about 13% of
all 17-year-olds in the United States could be considered functionally
illiterate, with functional illiteracy among minority youth running as high
as 40 percent. In addition, 23 million adult Americans were declared
A Nation at Risk called for a "learning society" with "a system of education
that affords all members the opportunity to stretch their minds to full
capacity, from early childhood through adulthood." (pp. 13-14). But beyond
this rhetoric, the report did not call for the greater development of the
Adult Education and Literacy System that was created in the federal Adult
Education Act of 1966.
Two months before the release of A Nation at Risk , I released a report
through the Human Resources Research Organization in Alexandria, Virginia
entitled Literacy and Human Resources Development at Work: Investing in the
Education of Adults to Improve the Educability of Children. In this report,
I called for a greater investment in research and development to find
cost-effective methods for permitting employing organizations to put
marginally literate youth and adults to work, while at the same time
providing education and training to increase the literacy and learning
skills of these employees.
In our economic system, we typically allocate childhood and youth as times
for human resources development, and we provide the K-12 education system
as the primary means for literacy and other cognitive skills development.
However, as adults, the economic focus is upon the utilization of human
resources for productive work.
For this reason I emphasized the need for cost-effective methods for hiring
undereducated, underskilled youth and adults for productive utilization
while also making investments in adult literacy development in work
organizations. This would make possible the expansion of the pool of
productive adults while extending the idea of the "learning society" with
lifelong learning as called for in A Nation at Risk.
In my report, I gave examples of how one could integrate literacy skills
education with job skills education for less cost than sequential programs
in which adults are counseled to first raise their basic literacy skills to
some level before they can qualify for job training or employment. I also
pointed out that there was a good chance that this integrated approach
would contribute improving language and literacy skills in the workers'
families through the intergenerational transfer of oral language and
literacy from parents to their children.
Today, 25 years after A Nation at Risk, despite hundreds of billions of
dollars in funding for compensatory education in pre-school and in-school
programs, 30-year trend data from the National Assessment of Educational
Progress (NAEP) show little if any improvements in reading for 9-year-olds
and none for 13 and 17 year olds. Schools continue to graduate tens of
thousands of functionally illiterate young adults.
In terms of adult literacy education, in 1988 the federal government passed
legislation to create a National Workplace Literacy Program (NWLP) to
support the provision of job-related basic skills education for workers at
the workplace, and a separate program called Even Start that focusing on
raising adults' literacy skills and the intergenerational transfer of
literacy to their children. However, the NWLP was underfunded and was later
folded into the National Literacy Act of 1991. Today, the Even Start program
operates with less than $100 million a year.
Overall, the federal government's budget for the Adult Education and
Literacy System is less than $575 million per year, amounting to some $220
per enrollee. Even with the state contributions, adult literacy education
funding totals less than $860 per enrollee. Meanwhile, a 2003 report from
the federal government has claimed that adult functional illiteracy has
actually increased since A Nation at Risk was released.
Over the past 25 years, one consistent finding of the NAEP trend data has
been that as parents' educational levels increase, so do the educational
achievements of their children. This intergenerational relationship holds
for 9-, 13-, and 17-year-olds and persists into adulthood.
This calls for a change from educational policies based on a
birth-to-death, lifelong learning model to a Multiple Life Cycles education
policy that explicitly recognizes the intergenerational effects of education
and provides for funding for the Adult Education and Literacy System at a
level comparable to that for the Pre-K-12 system. Because of the
intergenerational transfer of better health, inspiration for learning, oral
language, and literacy from parents to their children, and the effect this
has on children's school achievement, one of the best investments we can
make for children's education is an investment in adult education.
Thomas G. Sticht is an international consultant in adult education based in
El Cajon, California, USA
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