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NIFL-ASSESSMENT 2005: [NIFL-ASSESSMENT:1105] Response: Non-Lit

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From: Marie Cora (
Date: Tue Jun 21 2005 - 17:42:53 EDT

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Subject: [NIFL-ASSESSMENT:1105] Response:  Non-Lit in English and Below Basic
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Dear List Members,

I am posting this on behalf of Judy Koenig (we seem to be having a
couple of list glitches!).

I'm writing to reply to Marie's opening questions about the differences
between the Nonliterate in English and Below Basic Literacy performance
level categories. 
When making plans for the 2003 NAAL, the Dept of Ed decided to design a
special supplemental assessment (the ALSA) that was intended to evaluate
skills of low-literate adults.  The Dept. developed a set of screening
questions that were to be used to get an initial idea of a participant's
literacy skills.  Based on their responses to the screening questions,
participants were either assigned to take ALSA or the main NAAL
assessment.  The NRC Committee developed the Nonliterate in English
category as a means for documenting the percentage of adults who's
skills were so low that they could not "pass" the screening questions. 
This includes both the individuals whose skills were so low that they
could not even attempt the screening questions as well as those
who tried the questions but could not "pass" them and were assigned to
The Below Basic Literacy category is intended to document the percentage
of adults whose literacy skills were sufficient to "pass" the screening
questions but were still extremely low.  This category includes the
individuals who were assigned to take the main NAAL but whose scores
were lower than the cut score for the Basic category.  
Having the two categories allows for finer distinctions among low
literate adults than were possible with the 1992 NALS results.  In the
discussions that the NRC Committee had with stakeholders, some indicated
a desire to know the percentage of adults in the U.S. whose literacy
skills were so low that they would be regarded as "not literate." 
The Nonliterate in English category was designed to convey this type of
information, since adults who are classified into this category have
extreme difficulty reading in English.  Stakeholders also indicated that
it would be useful to know the percentage of adults who could read a
little but not very well, and the Below Basic Literacy category is
intended to respond to this information need. 
Because the ALSA was not available in 1992, it is not possible to
identify the group of adults who should be classified as Nonliterate in
English. So, for the 1992 results, all of the individuals whose scores
were lower than the cut score for Basic were classified as Below Basic
(that is, the lowest category for NALS is the Below Basic category). 
Therefore, when making trend comparisons (between the 1992 NALS results
and the 2003 NAAL results), the 2003 percentages in Nonliterate in
English and in Below Basic need to be combined.  This will allow
measuring growth over time in the percentages of individuals in the
lowest category of literacy.  
I hope that this provides additional information to explain what the
Committee intended by forming these two performance levels.  I welcome
this opportunity to further discuss this and other topics about our
Judy Koenig
NRC Study Director for the Committee on Performance Levels for Adult

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