Monday, December 19, 2005

Are College Grads Less Literate?

A recent article from the New York times discussed the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy. According to the article, college graduates did not perform as well on this test as they did on the 1992 version. Apparently, the percentage of college graduates who scored at the "proficient" level has declined from 40 percent in 1992 to 31 percent in 2003.

Of course, the statistics skeptic in me has the following questions:
1. Are we really less literate than our 1992 counterparts? (I graduated in 2003 so would fall into the less literate category).

2. Is it perhaps due instead to a difference in the difficulty of the test between 1992 and 2003? According to the NCES website which discusses the test, the 2003 version contains "new assessment components and new performance levels". Maybe that was a factor.

3. How was the sample of participants chosen? Was it truly random? According to the report, the sample is representative of "the entire population of U.S. adults who are age 16 and older and live in households or prisons" and is not just college students. I am not seeing a place where it is broken down by education level but it's a long document and perhaps I am just missing something.

The original report is available for download as a PDF at the NCES Website.

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