Literacy is the way we describe a person's ability to read, write, and speak in English; compute; and solve problems at levels of proficiency necessary to find employment, earn sustainable wages, or achieve educational success. Many adults lack these basic literacy skills and need additional education or training to be successful employees, parents, and citizens, but those who have the opportunity to acquire these skills are more likely to lift themselves out of poverty, find sustainable employment,and contribute to the local economy.
It is difficult to measure literacy levels, but one commonly used proxy is level of educational attainment. As you can see from the chart below, approximately 11% of Connecticut's residents have less than a high school diploma, and the sample education levels and graduation rates in our Region illustrate the issue.
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Who are Our Region's Adult Learners?
Working Poor or Those Looking for Work: In 2014, Connecticut's adult education programs enrolled 15,329 adults who were unemployed at entry, and entry-level workers often need additional education or training to earn higher wages or move into better jobs.
Immigrants & Non-English Speakers: English language learners are a growing population across the country, and according to the State Department of Education's 2014 Statewide Profile, more than 11,000 adults enrolled in English as a Second Language and Citizenship classes.
Parents: Many adult learners are parents of children under the age of 18. In 2014, CT's adult education programs enrolled 4,662 parents of children age 5 and under; 3,550 parents with children between the ages of 6-10, and 3,591 parents with children between the ages of 11-18. While we don't know how many of these parents have children in more than one age group, it is clear that many of the adult learners in our region are not only sustaining themselves, but their families as well.
What is the Economic Impact of Adult Literacy?
Addressing the issue of adult literacy extends far beyond the an ethical commitment to provide open access to public education, rather it is an economic imperative that affects individuals, families, and businesses.
Connecticut is nearly last in the Nation in jobs recovery since the recession, baby boomers are aging out of the workforce at a rate almost 6% faster than new workers are entering it, and many young people are leaving high school without the planning and skills necessary to enter the workforce. Additionally, trends indicate that by the year 2025, 70% of available jobs will require education or training beyond high school. Therefore, even our high school graduates will be left behind if we do not build our Region's capacity to improve the proficiency and skill levels of underskilled, under-employed adults, as well as increase availability of qualified workers to meet the needs of local employers has become critical to a healthy economy!
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What is the Impact of Adult Literacy on Children?
A report published by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, shows that Connecticut has 80,000 low-income families with children age 8 and under, of which 60% have no parent with fulltime, year-round work, and 80% do not have a parent with an Associates Degree or higher (Creating Opportunities for Families, Annie E Casey Foundation, 2014). The report also indicates that it takes an annual income of approximately $59,000 per year for a singal parent with 2 children to cover the basic costs of raising a family. When we consider that a mother's education level is the greatest determinant of her childrens' future academic success, and higher levels of education have been correlated to lower rates of chronic diseases and fewer hospital visits for children, we have to realize that addressing adult literacy is just as critical for our children as it is to our adults and businesses.