New National Report on Adult Literacy Statistics

It’s grant writing season again, and this year I found myself updating local Census data, but still relying on literacy levels from the National Assessment of Adult Literacy back in 2003.  It’s been 9 years!  Like many of my colleagues, I was wondering when a new national assessment might be released.

Fellow members of ProLiteracy were able to do their networking magic and discovered that the National Center for Education Statistics is currently collecting data for an international studies that will provide data for the U.S.  This will be beneficial not only to inform policy & practice in coming years, but also to provide international benchmarks to see how the U.S. ranks among other nations.

Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies

The Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) is a cyclical, large-scale, direct household assessment under the auspices of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The assessment will be first administered in 2011 to approximately 5,000 individuals between the ages of 16 and 65 in each of the 27 participating countries.The goal of PIAAC is to assess and compare the basic skills and competencies of adults around the world. The assessment focuses on cognitive and workplace skills needed for successful participation in 21st-century society and the global economy. Specifically, PIAAC measures relationships between individuals’ educational background, workplace experiences and skills, occupational attainment, use of information and communications technology, and cognitive skills in the areas of literacy, numeracy, and problem solving.

In the United States, data is being collected by the National Center of Education Statistics and the study is being called the International Survey of Adult Statistics.  Though there are two different names and webpages, they are actually both the same thing.  Follow our blog to get an update when the survey results are released!

One of the fellow ProLiteracy members lamented that she felt the data from NAAL has little applicability for her practice.  Personally, I feel the investment is cost effective because it (theoretically) helps us decide as a country and community where to put our resources to create a more just and socially inclusive society.  While NAAL and PIAAC are useful for making the argument for funding of adult literacy at large, she’s 100% right that it doesn’t help us make better decisions about specific interventions.  For that kind of “practitioner relevant” research we can (and should!) look to best practices.  Look for a blog post on definitions and resources for best practices in literacy next week.

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