Statistics in adult literacy
perickso at aznet.net
Wed Jun 4 09:02:24 EDT 1997
>From the well
In February of 1994 Tom Sticht and Bill Armstrong produced a collection
of statistical data for the National Institute for Education . The
report was entitled: *Adult Literacy in the United States: A Compendium
of Quantitative Data and Interpretive Comments*.
Questions of how to assess adult literacy skills and the effectiveness
of programs that aim to improve these skills are pervasive in adult
literacy education. Policy makers, program operators, teachers and
researchers need information about methods that have been and are being
used to assess adult literacy skills and programs so they may make
judgments about the extent of needs and how to best meet these needs.
The report presents extensive quantitative data on the assessment of
adult literacy skills and programs ranging from 1917 to 1993. It has
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, (3) family literacy and the intergenerational transfer of
literacy, and (4) measures of gains in reading skills for numerous
programs across the United States. Implications for practice, policy,
and research are presented throughout the report. It 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.
The Compendium provides in three parts a concise and comprehensive
reference source for adult literacy policy makers, 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
(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.
(3) An information processing view of learning that emphasizes the
active, constructive nature of cognitive development (including
literacy) in social contexts .
Part I: Assessing Adult Literacy Skills. In Part 1 of the Compendium the
theoretical framework is used in reinterpreting and summarizing major
military and civilian assessments of adult "intelligence," "aptitude,"
and "literacy." Numerous items are presented, many with commentary to
clarify the item's meaning or to relate the item to other information.
Assessments reviewed include the following.
(1) The World War I Army Alpha test for literates and the Army Beta test
(2) The World War II Army General Classification Test (AGCT).
(3) The Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) from the 1950's up to the
(4) The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) including
sub-tests in job-related areas such as automotive, shop, electronics,
and mechanical information.
(5) The 1937 studies of adult reading in Chicago by Guy Buswell using
"functional, real world" materials like those in the 1993 report of the
National Adult Literacy Survey.
(6) The 1971 NAEP assessment of adults with a special analysis of some
21 items that were performed by 9,13, 17 year olds and adults.
(7) The 1971 Harris surveys of adults' skills in completing various
(8) The Adult Performance Literacy (APL) study of the early 1970's with
data for the various items in the survey.
(9) The 1986 young adult literacy survey (YALS) that developed the
Prose, Document and Quantitative scales used in the 1993 National
Adult Literacy Survey (NALS).
(10) The 1993 National Adult Literacy Survey (NALS).
Part II: Special Topics. This part of the Compendium summarizes studies
of the assessment of listening and reading skills of adults, the
intergenerational transfer of literacy from adults to their children,
and relationships of literacy to occupations and to job performance.
Part III: Testing of Adult Literacy Development in Education Programs.
Data on changes in literacy skills in adult literacy programs in
California, Illinois, and New York are presented. Reading gain score
data are also presented for a variety of adult literacy programs from
around the nation. Finally, rare data are presented on the longitudinal
changes in adults' literacy skills as a function of participation in
literacy programs for up to three years.
In a forthcoming email, I will present some of the major findings from
tsticht at aznet.net
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