Why is there a problem?
In New Haven alone, about three in five adults have only basic or below basic prose literacy skills. They have difficulty reading a bus schedule or filling out a job application. (National Institute of Literacy; 2000 Census; NALS, 1992; NAAL, 2003).
Half (57 percent) of the population age 16 and over in New Haven does not have the necessary skills to be successful in the workforce (National Adult Literacy Survey, or NALS, 1992). More than one in four adults here (some 18,000 people) do not have a high school diploma and therefore have difficulty in the job market due to a lack of basic skills. The proportion of the adult population without a high school diploma is 60 percent higher in New Haven than in the rest of the state (2000 Census). 50 percent of high school dropouts have below basic literacy skills (NAAL, 2003).
Half (50 percent) of New Haven fourth-graders read proficiently; 32 percent read at the more ambitious state goal. Statewide, about 78 percent of fourth-graders are proficient and 64 percent at the goal (Connecticut Mastery Test, 2012). About 60 percent of New Haven tenth-graders read proficiently, with only 21 percent at the more ambitious goal. Statewide, 81 percent are proficient and 48 percent at the goal (Connecticut Academic Performance Test, 2012).
Students with very limited literacy are more likely to lose interest in school and drop out. Connecticut data indicate 79 percent of the class of 2009 graduated high school within four years. While 87 percent of white students graduated in four years, 66 percent of African American students and 58 percent of Hispanic classmates did so. Only 60 percent of students eligible for free or reduced-price school lunches graduated within four years, compared with 86 percent of more affluent classmates (Connecticut Department of Education, figures rounded).
18 percent of Connecticut residents speak a language other than English at home; of these, 39 percent speak English less than “very well” (U.S. Census Bureau, 2006, American Community Survey, http://factfinder.census.gov).
28 percent of New Haven residents speak a language other than English at home (U.S. Census Bureau, State and County Quick Facts, 2009).
49 percent of adults who did not complete high school have below basic health literacy, compared with 15 percent of adults who ended their education with a high school diploma and 3 percent of adults with a bachelor’s degree (National Assessment of Adult Literacy, 2003).