No one knows who said it first, but a popular saying about the use of numbers to support various arguments serves as a warning not to take such “evidence” at face value:
There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.
News articles about education usually include statistics to “prove” that education is on the rise or in the dumps.
It’s probably a good idea to compare more than one set of statistics when evaluating the effectiveness of public education. Here are some that I have gathered.
According to a report from the US Department of Education, six children of every ten who begin kindergarten each year are unprepared to do well. They never catch up with the children who come prepared by a variety of preschool experiences.
According to the Do Something site, every year, over 1.2 million students drop out of high school in the United States. That’s a student every 26 seconds or 7,000 a day.
High school graduates
According to the Eric government site, about 70% of high school students need some form of remediation; the most common problem is that students cannot comprehend the words they read, not that they cannot read them.
According to the Reading Is Fundamental site, 93 million adults in the U.S. read at or below the basic level needed to contribute successfully to society.
Literacy and Economics
According to the Fight Illiteracy site, lack of literacy skills cost the US $225 billion or more each year in non-productivity in the workforce, crime, and loss of tax revenue owing to unemployment.
Literacy and crime
According to a U.S. Department of Justice report published in 2006, over 7.2 million people were at that time in prison, on probation, or on parole (released from prison with restrictions). That means roughly 1 in every 32 Americans is under some sort of criminal justice system control. According to a recent national study, 85 percent of all juveniles who come into contact with the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate. So are 60 percent of all prison inmates.
The American hostility to literacy is evident in television entertainment and advertising.
Advice to parents of young children
Lay the foundation for literacy before your child begins school at the age of five or six. It doesn’t matter what your own level of literacy is. Children who are talked to, read to, and played with at home will develop the fundamentals necessary for reading success.