Nov 07, 2013 | Permalink »
Nearly One in Five Americans Has Low Basic Skills, but Solutions Exist to Strengthen America’s Workforce
One month after the release of the international report that found the U.S. lagging behind in measures of adult skills, the U.S. Department of Education has released new data that sheds light on the depth and severity of the problem.
Literacy, Numeracy, and Problem Solving in Technology-Rich Environments Among U.S. Adults: First Look examines basic skills by demographic and other socioeconomic factors, including race, educational attainment, foreign status, and age. This critical information will enable us to design smarter, more effective policy solutions that improve the skills of America's adults and youth.
A first look at these data show that almost one-fifth (18 percent) of U.S. adults have low literacy-and almost one-third (30 percent) have low numeracy, or basic math, skills. Other key findings from the report include the following:
- 20 percent of adults with a high school diploma have only beginning literacy skills. In addition, more than one-third (35 percent) of adults with this level of education have only beginning numeracy skills. Today, graduating from high school does not guarantee that one has the skills needed to compete for family-sustaining jobs, which often require higher-level skills and postsecondary credentials.
- 14 percent of young adults (ages 16-24) have low literacy skills and 30 percent have low numeracy skills. More young adults in the U.S. are low-skilled compared to the international average (11 percent). Without targeted education and skills training focused on the unique needs of this population, the long-term mobility of these workers will be compromised and the future economic vitality of the U.S. workforce will be endangered.
- People from minority and underrepresented groups have the lowest literacy levels in the U.S. Blacks adults are twice as likely to have low literacy and numeracy skills compared to all adults generally (35 percent have low literacy). This gap is even higher among Hispanic adults: 43 percent have low levels of literacy and 56 percent have low numeracy skills.
These new data-the first to examine adult basic skills in over a decade-point to the need for a stronger, more comprehensive approach to educating America's current and future workforce. Educating workers, both young and old, and helping them get on a path to postsecondary credentials provides them with individual economic mobility and strengthens the U.S. economy and state budgets.
Developing pathways to postsecondary credentials and economic success will require state and federal investments in education and training for low-income, low-skilled workers, as well as a fundamental rethinking of policies and service delivery models. Strategies to achieve these goals include: refocusing adult education and English language services on postsecondary and career success; developing career pathways to postsecondary credentials for low-skilled adults, disadvantaged and disconnected youth, and low-income adults; and addressing inequities in in college access and success for youth of color.
Learn more about CLASP's policy solutions to strengthen America's workforce in From PIAAC to Policy Solutions: Promoting Postsecondary and Economic Success for Low-Skilled Workers.
A discussion of these findings and a release of a U.S. Department of Education report featuring policy recommendations to improve the skills of the adult workforce will take place at an event on November 12, 2013. The report was authored by the Organisation for Economic Development and funded by the Office of Vocational and Adult Education at the U.S. Department of Education.
Oct 29, 2013 | Permalink »
A Strengths-Based Look at the State of the Black Child
"Being labeled ‘at risk' is like being voted least likely to succeed. For where there is no faith in your future success, there is no real effort to prepare you for it," says Carol Brunson Day, one of the many experts to contribute commentary to the National Black Child Development Institute's (NBCDI) latest publication, Being Black Is Not a Risk Factor: A Strengths-Based Look at the State of the Black Child.
All too often, black children are defined by the risks associated with their skin color.
While the challenges of black children and black families are real, NBCDI seeks to change the narrative of the limitations and deficits of black children and instead look at the strengths, opportunities and resilience that black children and their families possess. The report includes essays that focus on utilizing strengths to improve outcomes for black children, highlights examples of black children succeeding, and includes data that provides information on how black children and families are doing.
From early childhood to young adulthood, Being Black is Not a Risk Factor identifies the ways that black children and youth benefit from the strengths and resilience of their families and communities and offers a starting point for a national conversation on how black children can be supported to achieve their very best in a culture that has placed many impediments in front of them.
Data can tell many stories. The narrative we don't often hear, but data support, is that black children are more likely to be enrolled in preschool than white children (75 percent of black 4-year-olds, compared to 69 percent of white 4-year-olds); more than 3 in 4 young black children have at least one working parent; and 79 percent of young black children are read to by a family member regularly.
We must not define children by the risk factors associated with their skin color. All children deserve the means to keep themselves healthy, to be provided with stable environments, and to have access to high-quality education to achieve their life's potential. The challenges of black children are critical to understand because they convey the urgency of the need for policymakers and communities to help create a new future for children of color. But that future should be built on children's strengths and communities' successes, not disparities. After all, being black is not a risk factor.
CLASP is pleased to have contributed data analysis to this publication.
Oct 29, 2013 | Permalink »
Creating Paths to College and the Urgency of Now
by Rhonda Tsoi-A-Fatt Bryant
(cross-posted from PhilanTopic)
I was a STEM whiz as a child - a seemingly unlikely thing for a girl, and an African-American girl at that, to be. In middle school, I attended a magnet program and learned computer programming while taking advanced math and science classes. In high school, I took calculus and physics and learned a computer programming language. My primary interest was engineering, so my school district helped me attend summer programs at area universities. That experience landed me a job at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration at the age of 17.
Although I chose public policy instead of engineering as my life's work, those were the opportunities that put me on a path to college. My middle school and high school offered classes that nurtured my interests in mathematics and science. I had great teachers who used hands-on learning to take basic lessons to the next level. I remember our physics teacher explaining the science behind breaking boards martial arts-style and wading in the Chesapeake River in hip-high boots to learn about plant life. I also had guidance counselors who knew me personally, connected me to summer opportunities that allowed me to cultivate my academic interests, and walked me through the college application process. My family couldn't afford to pay for college. Without these opportunities, it would have been far more difficult to continue my education.
Unfortunately, most low-income African American and Hispanic children cannot access the kinds of transformative educational opportunities necessary to put them on a path to college and, eventually, out of poverty and into the middle class. Nationally, only 65 percent of high schools with the highest enrollments of African-American and Hispanic students offer algebra II, compared to 82 percent of low-minority high schools. An analysis of the nation's fifty largest school districts reveals that while African-American boys comprise 16 percent of the high school population, they account for only 12 percent of the enrollment in physics courses and 7 percent of the enrollment in calculus courses. Youth of color also have fewer experienced teachers in their classrooms. In the fifty largest school districts in the U.S., 15 percent of the teacher workforce in high schools with large minority populations is either a first- or second-year teacher, compared to 11 percent in high schools with low minority populations. While new teachers often bring innovative methods and ideas into the classroom, more experienced teachers generally are better classroom managers and are able to more effectively facilitate higher-order thinking skills and their meaningful application, leading to better outcomes for students. In these same districts, there are fewer high school counselors to help students navigate school successfully and prepare for postsecondary opportunities. Without sufficient school counselors to guide students on a path to college readiness, young people may flounder in lower-level courses that lead nowhere. This is particularly true for students of color and low-income students, who historically have not matriculated as frequently as their white and more affluent peers. READ MORE>>