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Back to Mar. Ed Reporter

Education Reporter
NUMBER 242 THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS MARCH 2006

College Students Have Trouble Reading
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A new survey of the literacy skills of U.S. college students, made by the respected Pew Charitable Trust, reports that 20% of students in 4-year colleges, and 30% of students in 2-year colleges, have only basic or below basic quantitative literacy skills. Called the National Survey of America's College Students, this study was based on a sample of nearly 2,000 students from 80 randomly selected public and private colleges and universities in the United States. The students were tested shortly before their graduation.

This survey measured three types of literacy ability: (1) prose literacy, which means the ability to read and understand information in continuous texts such as newspapers and instructional materials; (2) document literacy, which means the ability to comprehend and use information in various formats, such as job applications, transportation schedules, maps, tables, and prescription drug labels; and (3) quantitative literacy, which means the ability to identify and perform computations using numbers embedded in printed materials, such as balancing a checkbook, calculating a tip, completing an order form, determining the amount of interest on a loan, or calculating the cost of ordering office supplies. Students have the most difficulty with quantitative literacy. The survey found no significant differences between men and women, or between public and private colleges.

College professors complain that most of their students haven't read much before they come to college, and they expect to get good grades and graduate without reading much of anything. The inability to read well and rapidly practically shuts students out of a first-rate education, even though they manage to get a college diploma.


 
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