The percentage of South Carolina adults who lack basic literacy skills shrank by one-fourth from 1992 to 2003, according to a comprehensive survey released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Education. The survey, compiled by the National Center for Education Statistics, said the percentage of adults unable to read and understand written information in English improved from 20 percent to 15 percent.
State Superintendent of Education Jim Rex said that while the improvement was encouraging, illiteracy in South Carolina and other Southern states remains far too prevalent.
“There have been remarkable improvements in South Carolina, particularly in high-poverty rural areas that had extraordinarily poor literacy rates back in 1992,” Rex said. “So I think this survey reflects corresponding improvements in our public schools and particularly in our adult education programs. But although the improvement is worth celebrating, 15 percent isn’t. We have a long way to go if we’re going to overcome the historical effects of poverty in South Carolina and continue to improve our state’s overall quality of life.”
South Carolina’s 2003 adult illiteracy rate of 15 percent -- adults who can’t read at all or who can read just a few words but not entire sentences or paragraphs -- was similar to nearby Southern states.
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And counties showing the greatest improvements were primarily rural.
McCormick County had an adult illiteracy rate of 40 percent in 1992 butimproved to 20 percent in 2003. Marlboro County improved from 39percent to 24 percent. And Allendale, the state’s poorest county,improved from 43 percent to 29 percent.
David Stout, director of the South Carolina Department of Education’s Office of Adult Education, said the state's commitment to fund adult education programs has helped.Initiatives such as the Young Adult Between 6,500 and 7,500 adults earn a high school credential through adult education each year, and last year nearly 8,000 adult education students earned Career Readiness Certificates. -- From Staff Reports