Doug Hesse, a professor of English and head of the honors program at Illinois State University, who is active in the National Council of Teachers of English, has some theories. “This is exactly emblematic of what’s going on in our culture now,” he said, in that students (like most of us) are barraged with “flashes and bits of material” — “here’s a sound bit, here’s a sound bite, here’s a factoid” — and “not really much asked to use the information or analyze it in some way.”
Hesse also cited “sobering” data about the amount of time students spend on their studies. One study at Illinois State found that honors students were assigned an average of fewer than 50 pages of reading a week, and that two of five students acknowledged completing less than half of that work. “Students seem to spend a lot of time on Facebook, and when you think about the literate practices involved in Facebook, that’s probably not contributing a lot to the scores on something like this literacy test,” he said.
Here are some questions from the 1992 test.