How many students struggle as readers? What percentage of students in the United States are behind in reading?
The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), first administered in 1969, is the largest continuing and nationally representative assessment of what our nation’s students know and can do in subjects such as mathematics, reading, science, and writing.
Students in grades four and eight are tested every other year. According to the most recent report released in late 2015, 31% of all students in the fourth grade read below the basic level, and 24% of all eighth grade students read below the basic level. Among black students, 48% of all fourth graders read below the basic level and 42% of all eighth graders read below the basic level. Among Hispanic students, 45% of all fourth graders read below the basic level and 34% of all eighth graders read below the basic level.
The most recent study of adult literacy in the United States was published by the National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) in 2003 and is a nationally representative assessment of English literacy among American adults age 16 and older. Sponsored by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), NAAL is the nation’s most comprehensive measure of adult literacy. Over 19,000 adults participated in the national and state-level assessments, representing the entire population of U.S. adults who are age 16 and older.
The report concluded that 30 million adults — 14 percent of adults (over age 16) are functionally illiterate and that another 63 million adults — 29 percent of adults don’t read well enough to understand a newspaper story written at an eighth grade level. Among the over 200 million adults (age 25+) in the United States in 2010 approximately 15% have NOT earned a high school diploma or an equivalent degree (American Community Survey).
Obviously the number of struggling readers spanning in ages from early elementary grades through adults is vast. The question then becomes how is it possible that a nation that has spent more money on reading education than any other nation in recorded history has such a high percentage of its citizenry perform so dismally in reading?