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              National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL)

Frequently Asked Questions

  

Why are there so many adults with limited skills? 

    1. ORIGINAL EDUCATION:  Adults who went to school 10, 20, 30 years ago may have obtained the skills they needed for the jobs then.  But as you know, technology has replaced many of the manual labor jobs.  Now the jobs require much higher reading, writing, and math skills as well as complex problem solving and technology skills.
    2. HISTORY:  It is difficult to pinpoint what the specific causes of low literacy skills are.  The point is that right now there are millions of adults who need to improve their educational skills to compete in the workplace, to fulfill their roles as parents and family members, and to contribute to the community.  We need to get educational services to them now.
    3. WE HAVE NO WORKERS TO LOSE:  Again it is difficult to pinpoint the cause.  Our focus should be on the future--on these 61 million who have not finished high school, those with limited English ability, and others identified in the NAAP reports who may have completed high school some years ago but do not have the level of skills needed in today’s workplace.  We have no workers to lose.
    4. CHALLENGE:  How do we expand services in order to enable them to acquire the skills they need to succeed as workers, family members, and members of the community?

You have had adult education funding for years.  Why are there still so many people with limited skills?

    1. WE HAVE BEEN SUCCESSFUL:  Over the past 10 years 4,750,000 adults have earned their GED—high school equivalency diploma.  Half of them prepared in an adult education program.

                             i.      From 2000-2004, in addition to improving reading, math, and problem solving skills:

  •     A half million adults who enrolled in adult education to qualify for employment, got a job;

  •      Three quarters of a million who enrolled in adult education in order to keep the job they had, retained their jobs; and

  •     Nearly 200,000 adults who came to adult education in order to qualify for post secondary education, enrolled. 

    1. PEFORMANCE STANDARDS:  Furthermore, last year, forty-three of the states qualified for incentive awards for meeting or exceeding their performance targets.  Those measures include adults improving on standardized reading and math assessments, as well as, getting a job, keeping a job, or going on to the community college or further education for those for whom that was their goal.  So, adult education and literacy programs have successful.
    2. LIMITED OPPORTUNITY:  It is important to note that we serve less than 10 percent of the adults who have not completed high school.  Our classes are often full all year and we do not have the funding to expand our services.  Our challenge is to find ways to expand services to more of those who need the help to upgrade their skills.
    3. Of the 209 million adults in the country, 43 million have not finished high school.  Another 18 million speak a language other than English and have limited English proficiency.  Thus, 61 million adults (nearly 30% of the adult population) are captured by the US Census.  The NAAL identifies others who may have finished high school but still have basic skills deficiencies.  The adult education program enrolled 2.7 million adults in FY 2003.  That 2.7 million represents 4.4 % of the 61 million who could benefit.
    4. Adult education enables undereducated adults achieve their goals.  Our challenge is to expand services to enable all undereducated adults to achieve theirs.

 

They had their chance one time.  Why should we give them a second chance?

    1. ORIGINAL EDUCATION:  Adults who went to school 10, 20, 30 years ago may have gotten the skills they needed for the jobs then.  But as you know, technology has replaced many of the manual labor jobs.  Now the jobs require much higher reading and math skills as well as complex problem solving and technology skills.
    2. LEARNING DISABILITY:  It turns out that a large percentage of the adults who did not finish high school had a learning disability.  Many went to school before we knew much about learning disabilities.  All we knew then was they were not learning.  Now we know that they have average or above intelligence, but they learn differently from the way they were taught when they were in school.  We are working hard to learn more about adults with learning disabilities so we can adapt learning strategies to help them be successful.

                             i.      Other Data if you need to go there:  According to the National Association for Adults with Special Learning Needs (http://www.naasln.org/):

  • ·    50-80 percent of students in ABE and literacy programs with low reading skills may have either a suspected or diagnosed learning disability. 

  • ·    43 percent of learning disabled are living at or below the poverty level and 48 percent of those with learning disabilities are out of the workforce or unemployed.. 

  • ·    OCR guidance indicates that 40 percent of TANF population has a learning disability.

    1. WE HAVE NO WORKERS TO LOSE:  Even it they did have a chance to learn and were unsuccessful, they are in our state’s workforce now and we do not have any workers to lose.  So regardless of their past, our focus is on the future—to these 43 million adults who have not finished high school, others who may have completed high school some years ago but do not have the level of skills needed in today’s workplace, and immigrants who want to improve their English literacy skills. 
    2. CHALLENGE:  How do we expand services to enable them to attain the skills they need to succeed as workers, family members, and members of the community?

 

What about all of these foreign born adults who need to learn English?  How many of them are illegal?  Do we owe them services at the expense of people born here?:

    1. HOW MANY ARE ILLEGAL

                             i.      We are not sure.  We do not have those numbers.  We do know that one of our major goals is to provide English language instruction to help foreign born adults improve their work opportunities and become citizens. 

                             ii.      If we inadvertently serve a few illegals or individuals who do not intend to seek citizenship, that should not get in the way of helping our newest citizens or citizens-to-be succeed.  Language is power and we need to empower the legal immigrants in our state.

    1. LOW UNEMPLOYMENT:  There does not seem to be high unemployment due to foreign born adults taking jobs.  (MAKE SURE THIS IS TRUE IN YOUR STATE BEFORE MAKING THIS STATEMENT.)

NAEPDC Census Data Worksheet 

In addition to the data from the NAAL reports, there are several census sources that are helpful: 

1.  The DAEL (US Department of Education, Division of Adult Education and Literacy) reports: 

  • Overview and national profiles http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ovae/pi/AdultEd/census1.pdf
  • Regional profiles http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ovae/pi/AdultEd/census2.pdf
  • State profileshttp://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ovae/pi/AdultEd/census3.pdf

 2.  The Census   http://www.census.gov 

  1. Go to http://www.census.gov
  2. On the LEFT hand side click on “American Factfinder”
  3. In the center column “Fast Access to Information” click on “PEOPLE”
  4. In the right hand side colored box, click on the draw down menu and click on your state.  HIT GO
  5. EDUCATION:  For section headings in the left hand column, scroll down to “EDUCATION”
    1. The first table “Education Attainment” (QTP20) gives you numbers and percentages of adults who have various levels of education attainment.
    2. The second table “Sex by age by Ed Attainment” (PCT 25), gives you a similar break down.
  6. ORIGINS AND LANGUAGES:  For section headings in the left column of the PEOPLE page, scroll down to “ORIGINS AND LANGUAGES”
    1. The first table “Ability to Speak English” (QT-P17) about half way down the table gives you some numbers of adults who do not speak English or do not speak it well.

 LOCAL NOTE:  On your state’s PEOPLE page, you can enter locality names above the state pull down menu to investigate the same numbers for that locality.

 

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Contact us: Patricia Tyler, Executive Director; 444 North Capitol Street, NW; Suite 422; Washington, DC 20001
Phone: 202-624-5250; Fax: 202-624-1497; Email: ptyler@naepdc.org