Georgia: Adult Literacy Numbers Rise; but a Regional Report Says Southern States Are Losing That Struggle

Article excerpt

Byline: WALTER C. JONES

ATLANTA - A report released Wednesday says Southern states are losing ground in efforts to improve adult literacy by helping high school dropouts earn diplomas.

But Georgia officials say their figures show the enrollment and graduation rate in adult-literacy programs is rising.

The report by the Southern Regional Education Board, which is funded by 16 states to research policy options, says the 10 million working-age adults in the region without a diploma or its equivalent could be helped. Roughly 1.3 million Georgians older than 18 don't have a diploma.

The authors recommend increased funding and better coordination between agencies to eliminate wasteful duplication.

The average state has already spent $100,000 educating a student who drops out after 10 years of public school.

"Adding a modest amount of spending on adult learning programs to assure that these adults can complete a GED or comparable program only completes the investment," the authors wrote.

The payoff comes in a graduate who earns more, pays more taxes and stays in better health, reducing the burden on the public in multiple ways, according to the report. The payback could be quick, considering a student with only middle-school math and reading skills can earn a GED in 10 weeks just attending class 20 hours per week.

Joan Lord, vice president of the Education Board, told reporters adult-literacy enrollment declined 6 percent in the period studied, 2005-2008. Georgia had the biggest drop, 39 percent, followed by Oklahoma at 37 percent and Texas' 32 percent. …