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[Susan notes: This simple explanation of numbers that seem to baffle bureaucrats and politicians (not to mention the media)is important. ]

Submitted to Montgomery Advertiser but not published

Alabama's Literacy Crisis

Alabama State Superintendent Ed Richardson feels there is a reading problem in Alabama, because one in seven children reads in the bottom three stanines ("Making sure Johnny can read," January 14). Here is how stanines work: Scores are divided into nine levels. The bottom three stanines are "below average," the middle three are considered "average" (otherwise known as grade level) and the top three are considered "above average." Thus, if Alabama children were reading at an "average" level, 1/3 or 33% would be in the bottom three stanines. But only 1/7 (14%) are, according to the Superintendent. If this is true, Alabama's children read quite well.

Either the superintendent's remarks were inaccurately reported, or there is a serious math problem in Alabama.

Stephen Krashen

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