West Virginia Makes Improvements in Adult Literacy

January 09, 2009

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – West Virginians are overcoming economic challenges to increase the number of adults who can read and understand written material, including newspapers, books and over-the-counter drug labels.

From 1992 to 2003, one of the poorest states in the country, saw the percentage of its adult residents lacking basic prose literacy skills improve from 17 percent to 13 percent. The national average in 2003 was 14.5 percent, according to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy report released Thursday by the National Center for Education Statistics.

 “This improvement is moderately significant and demonstrates that West Virginia is moving in the right direction,” said West Virginia Superintendent Steve Paine. “We are doing great things in West Virginia to prepare our students for the 21st century but we know there is always room for improvement and are working hard to do just that.”

Part of the improvement comes as more high school students stay in school until graduation. West Virginia’s high school graduation rate is about 84 percent, compared to about 70 percent nationally.

The state also is poised to see even greater improvements in adult literacy after changes went into effect last year that allow state residents to take the General Education Development (GED) test for free. The updated state policy also eased some documentation requirements and shortened the time students who leave high school must wait before taking the high school equivalency test.

The national study provides estimates on the percentage of adults who lack basic prose literacy skills in all states and counties in the United States for 1992 and 2003.  A representative sample of 19,000 Americans age 16 and older was used for the study.

State and county estimates can be viewed at http://nces.edu.gov/naal/estimates/index.aspx. The technical report may be downloaded at http://nced.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2009482.

Additional information on literacy may be found at the West Virginia Department of Education’s Adult Basic Education web page at http://wvde.state.wv.us/abe or by calling (304) 558-0280 or the Office of Communications at (304) 558-2699.

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