Nearly one in five adult Alameda County residents can’t understand simple, written English, according to a new estimate released by the National Center for Education Statistics.
But the state’s adult English literacy rate is even worse. California ranks 51st — last in the nation, behind the other 49 states and the District of Columbia — with 23 percent of the adult population unable to glean information from brochures, newspapers or other sources of information.
In 1992, it ranked 33rd. The recent study is based on data collected in 2003.
Neil Gonzales, a fellow education reporter who writes for the San Mateo County Times, wrote this story about the report. He notes the obvious immigration factor:
In general, states with large immigrant populations had the most residents who were unable to read and understand information from such sources as newspapers and brochures or could grasp only short, commonplace language, the study indicates.
Well, at least the test scores of Oakland’s English learners improved this year. A program at one elementary school even brings in parents and teaches them to read. In Oakland Adult & Career Education, “mobile ESL,” an adult education teacher goes to the homes of OUSD parents.
One teacher recently wrote me about Oakland’s adult literacy programs, saying that in some cases, the older students need to learn how to hold a pencil:
Teachers are challenged with teaching what is often elementary school level material to adults who may be as young as 18, but just as often are in their 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and beyond.
I’d known that children of non English-speaking immigrants often find themselves placed in the role of interpreter, but I hadn’t fully appreciated the literacy factor on top of that. I wonder what it’s like to have that responsibility at a young age — and to have your parents rely on you for survival.
photo by LindaH from flickr.com/creativecommons