Many adults need a boost with literacy
“Our View” by Editorial Board
There has been much hand-wringing about the state of Rhode Island's public education lately, as recently released test scores show far too few students are meeting standards in science and math.
But this week, some much-needed attention will be paid to the issue of adult education, particularly literacy .
Congress has proclaimed this week Adult Education and Family Literacy Week, recognizing the profound effect il literacy has not only on adults, but entire families.
“The literacy of its citizens is essential for the economic wellbeing of the United States,” the proclamation reads in part. “ Literacy and education skills are a prerequisite to individuals reaping the full benefits of opportunities in the United States.”
The National Assessment of Adult Literacy estimates that 90 million adults lack the literacy , numeracy or English language skills to succeed at home, in the workplace and in society.
This is a shocking number. That means almost 1 in 3 adults in America can't read a prescription or read a book to their children, fill out a job application or understand workplace safety instructions.
In Rhode Island, the statistics aren't much better: 1 in 5 adults are at the lowest literacy level.
According to Rhode Island Census data, there are more than 150,000 adults in the state who either lack a high school credential, who need to improve their English language skills, or both. Twenty percent of them are living at or below the poverty level. According to the office of Adult and Career & Technical Education at the state Department of Education, there is funding to serve about 7,000 adults a year, and programs around the state have an active waiting list of nearly 2,000 people.
In addition to raising awareness of adult literacy programs and the importance of supporting them, Adult Education and Family Literacy Week in Rhode Island will mark the formal announcement of a new organization for adult education learners, Students Taking Action Now with Determination. STAND was founded by students and alumni of adult literacy , GED and English language classes and workforce training programs. Its purpose is to represent adult learners across the state, and to develop those learners into leaders in their programs and communities.
“There are many things we would like to change,” said Wesley Garvin, STAND's director, “and one of them is to increase access to adult learner programs and classes, so that all Rhode Island adults can gain the skills and education they need to thrive in the work force, especially in this harsh economy.”
We have heard much lip service paid to the fact that improving education — as well as access to it — is directly tied to Rhode Island's economic survival. Whether for children or adults, it's time Rhode Island put its money where its mouth is.