Questions of how to assess adult literacy skills and the effectiveness of programs that aim to improve these skills are pervasive in adult education. This report addresses the needs of policymakers, program operators, teachers and researchers for information about methods that have been and are being used to assess adult literacy skills and programs. It also provides a resource for staff development that provides concrete illustrations of the importance of theory in determining the types of assessments that are developed and how various assessments can suggest different approaches to adult literacy development in and out of programs.
This report, Adult Literacy In the United States: A Compendium of Quantitative Data and Interpretive Comments, includes extensive quantitative data on the assessment of adult literacy skills and programs ranging from World War I (1917) up to the present. The Compendium presents over 100 pages of graphics and literacy test items with interpretive comments that show the relevance of the data to (1) theoretical and conceptual issues in adult literacy; (2) workforce and workplace literacy; and (3) family literacy and the intergenerational transfer of literacy. Implications for practice, policy, and research are presented throughout the report.
The Compendium contributes to the activities of the National Institute for Literacy (NIFL) that are aimed at assisting the Nation to achieve goal number 5 of the National Education Goals and Goals 2000. Specifically, it addresses NIFL objectives to (1) better understand the assessment of adult literacy skills and the development of promising adult literacy instructional techniques, (2) establish a national data base with respect to assessment tools for adult literacy programs, and (3) disseminate information to adult literacy practitioners, policymakers, and researchers.
Overview of the Compendium
The Compendium provides in three parts a concise and comprehensive reference source for adult literacy policymakers, practitioners and researchers on adult literacy assessments spanning a 75 year period. The major divisions of the Compendium include the following.
Introduction to the Compendium. The Introduction provides a theoretical framework for interpreting the assessments described in the remainder of the report. The framework includes the following concepts from the cognitive sciences.
(1) The concept of a human cognitive system that emphasizes the role of knowledge in literacy along with the information processes involved in oral and written language use and reasoning with graphic tools of thought (flow charts, tables, etc.).
(2) A developmental model of literacy showing how childhood processes develop into adult literacy ability.
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