Skip to comments.New Study of the Literacy of College Students Finds Some are Graduating with Only Basic Skills
Posted on 12/11/2007 10:02:24 PM PST by MadDoctorD
REPORT BY AMERICAN INSTITUTES FOR RESEARCH FINDS AT LEAST 20 PERCENT OF COLLEGE GRADS UNABLE TO DO FUNDAMENTAL COMPUTATIONS
WASHINGTON, D.C. Twenty percent of U.S. college students completing 4-year degrees and 30 percent of students earning 2-year degrees have only basic quantitative literacy skills, meaning they are unable to estimate if their car has enough gasoline to get to the next gas station or calculate the total cost of ordering office supplies, according to a new national survey by the American Institutes for Research (AIR). The study was funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts.
The AIR study found there is no difference between the quantitative literacy of todays graduates compared with previous generations, and that current graduates generally are superior to previous graduates when it comes to other forms of literacy needed to comprehend documents and prose.
The complete study is available on the AIR Web site, www.air.org.
The new study, The National Survey of Americas College Students, (NSACS) is based on a sample of 1,827 graduating students from 80 randomly selected 2-year and 4-year public and private colleges and universities across the United States. By targeting students nearing the end of their degree programs, the study provides a broader and more comprehensive picture of fundamental college literacy skills than ever before.
The surprisingly weak quantitative literacy ability of many college graduates is troubling, says Dr. Stéphane Baldi, who directed the AIR study. A knowledgeable workforce is vital to cope with the increasing demands of the global marketplace.
Study findings include:
* More than 75 percent of students at 2-year colleges and more than 50 percent of students at 4-year colleges do not score at the proficient level of literacy. This means that they lack the skills to perform complex literacy tasks, such as comparing credit card offers with different interest rates or summarizing the arguments of newspaper editorials.
* Students in 2- and 4-year colleges have the greatest difficulty with quantitative literacy: approximately 30 percent of students in 2-year institutions and nearly 20 percent of students in 4-year institutions have only Basic quantitative literacy. Basic skills are those necessary to compare ticket prices or calculate the cost of a sandwich and a salad from a menu.
* Students about to graduate from college have higher prose and document literacy than previous graduates with similar levels of education; for quantitative literacy, differences between current and former college graduates are not significant.
* There are no significant differences in the literacy of students graduating from public and private institutions. Additionally, in assessing literacy levels, there are no differences between part-time and full-time students. No overall relationship exists between literacy and the length of time it takes to earn a degree, or between literacy and an academic major.
* There are no significant differences between men and women in college in their average prose, document, and quantitative literacy indicating that women may be bridging a divide that has long existed between the sexes.
* The average prose and quantitative literacy of Whites in 4-year institutions is higher than for any other racial/ethnic group, mirroring trends in the general population. The fact that white students also have the highest prose and document literacy among students in 2-year colleges provides further evidence that the literacy gap between minority and non-minority students persists.
* The literacy skills of college students are directly related to the education of their parents: children whose parents graduated college or attended graduate school have higher literacy than students whose parents did not graduate high school or stopped after receiving a high school diploma or GED.
* Despite variations in income, most differences in the literacy of students across income groups are not significant. The most significant disparity exists between students in 4-year institutions with the lowest and highest income backgrounds. Students in the highest income group (either their personal income or the income of their parents) have higher prose and document literacy than students in the lowest income group.
* Literacy level is significantly higher among students who say their coursework places a strong emphasis on applying theories or concepts to practical problems, in comparison to students who say their coursework rarely touch on these skills.
The results of the study are intended to help college and university administrators identify specific academic areas where students have literacy gaps that should be addressed, as well as provide information on how prepared students are to join the labor force.
The report includes comparisons with data contained in the U.S. Department of Educations National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL), the first nationwide assessment of the literacy skills of U.S. adults aged 16 and older in more than a decade. The first NAAL report, which was released in December, was written by AIR authors.
Despite the lackluster performance of many graduates on quantitative literacy, we should nevertheless be encouraged that current college graduates are not falling behind in terms of literacy when compared to graduates from earlier generations, says Emerson Elliott, a former Commissioner of Education Statistics at the U.S. Department of Education.
Higher education institutions should take careful note of the important benefits derived from emphasizing analytic and critical thinking, and the application of theories in preparing students, says Peter Ewell, vice president of the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems.
Elliott and Ewell are members of the National Advisory Panel that guided the direction of the study. Other panel members include: Joni Finney, vice president of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education; George Kuh, director of the Center for Postsecondary Research at Indiana University; Margaret Miller, director of the Center for the Study of Higher Education at the University of Virginia; and Nichole Rowles, Planning and Evaluation Officer for The Pew Charitable Trusts.
Note that the sentence read “Killian said.” He’s speaking, not writing. Most of us speak in a far less formal and grammatically correct fashion than we write. Using “that” instead of “who” is a pet peeve of mine, too, but not in rapid speech.
A few years back one of the part-time girls at our store told the boss that she was going to be going to college. We were more than a little surprised because this girl was far from the sharpest tack in the pack. She got a Pell grant that paid for her tuition and books and she even had enough money left over to buy a pretty decent used car.
Well, come to find out her first year in college she was taking all REMEDIAL courses. Why, why would a state college be offering remedial courses?!? Well, as expected she bombed out of her first semester, but still she received more Pell grant money for the next semester. She ended up dropping out of that semester.
What we find to be totally unbelievable is that the next year she got yet another grant and went to a technical school. We lost track of her, so I don't know what ever became of it, but this is how the government wastes our money and drives down the average literacy score of all the college students.
“Ive met an inordinate number of young teachers who cant spell, add or subtract, let alone construct meaningful sentencesand there seems to be more of them every year.”
I am convinced that many of the teachers today are the “second (or maybe even third) string.” The first string women (for the most part) were the teachers, nurses and secretaries through the 1950’s. Then they began to be accepted into the professions. Now, the first string go on to get their MBAs, PhDs, Law degrees, medical degrees, etc.
Problem is, now days the getting laid starts in middle school, hence the government schools are passing out pretend birth control methods starting in middle school.
By the time most kids reach college age they are already have been indoctrinated in the ad campaigns that sex sells all products and their immediate vehicle for purchasing is easy credit cards.
It goes deeper than that.
I spent several semesters as an adjunct professor at a major state school, teaching an upper division course in advertising.
To my dismay, at the very first class session I discovered that only six out of 36 students could correctly solve a simple division problem -- even with the use of a calculator.
In a business writing course, the objective was to get students to the point where they could compose one intelligible paragraph -- without misspellings or grammatical errors -- in one semester.
The students were, for the most part, bright eyed and eager to learn. Problem was: Nobody had ever taught them anything.
Left-wing university professors intent on indoctrinating rather than teaching are one thing. A public education system that doesn't provide a functional "reading, writing and 'rithmatic" competency is quite another.
Hah! Yer all as dumb as me are!
It does seem a bit much to assume that colleges can take up the slack for the inadequacies of primary education. Remedial classes are, after all, an attempt to remediate a previous failure. It strikes me that this sort of thing is better addressed by simply denying admission to the ignorant, but then that's judgmental, isn't it? Discriminatory? Those are Bad Words.
I tend to agree, especially in the case of young teachers. The situation is often different with career changers who turn to teaching after having stayed home with kids for some years. I know a number of very intelligent women who are "sitting on" MBA's and raising kids. They don't all wish to re-enter the rough and tumble world of business. Quite a few are re-discovering the family-friendly work schedule of teaching, light office work, etc. It's not unusual for women to make a lot of changes to accommodate the changing needs of their families.
As a philosophy major who works with engineers (all kinds) and physicists, I would say that choice of major does not assure that basic writing ability or clarity is present.
The sentence is correct as written and has been true all along.
It was Murray.
You are screwed...Tuition goes up, quality goes way down.
And the world moves forward.
Tortured prose ping.
That really sums it up, well said. I was surprised to see how much has changed in the last 10-15 years.
Bingo! My teachers were highly competent ladies, battleaxes, but highly competent.
Amen! With the government subsidizing college tuition, more people can go to college, and the status of a college diploma has been diminished. It’s not special anymore. It also doesn’t guarantee a good job.
If the government is going to subsidize tuition, I always thought financial assistance should be limited to (1) people who serve in the military, (2) jobs the government needs to fill in national defense and infrastructure, like college majors in science, engineering, etc., and (3) a service needed by a community but too few qualified people can fill. For example, say a region does not have enough medical doctors. In return for tuition assistance, a student would agree to work in that region for a specified time period.
I did go through college without any financial assistance. I did well, but I think I wasted my time and money. College is an option, not a necessity. Some people go through shorter certificate programs and end up in solid, well-paying careers. Also, there are different kinds of intelligence. Some people are booksmart. Others are better at constructing and building. I wish I’d been the latter. I never considered one gift to be superior to the other, nor one to signify more intelligence than the other.
LOL. That’s funny. Those are the mistakes spellcheck doesn’t catch. ;-)
Add to that the lack of real teaching that goes on in the public schools, and the kids don't stand a chance.