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 2003áNAAL, the Dept of Ed decided to design a
special supplemental assessment (the ALSA) that wasáintended to evaluate
skills of low-literate adults.á The Dept. developed a set of screening
questions that were to be used to get an initial idea ofáa participant's
literacy skills.á Based on their responses to the screening questions,
participants were either assigned to takeáALSA oráthe main NAAL
assessment.ááThe NRC Committee developed theáNonliterate in English
category as a meansáforádocumenting the percentage of adults who's
skills were so low that they could not "pass" the screening questions.á
This includes both the individuals whose skills were so low that they
could notáeven attempt the screening questions as well as those
whoátried 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 sufficientáto "pass" the screening
questions but were stilláextremely low.á This category includes the
individuals whoáwere assigned to take the main NAAL but whose scores
were lower than the cut score for the Basic category.áá
Having theátwo categoriesáallows for finer distinctions among low
literate adults than were possible with the 1992 NALS results.ááIn the
discussions that the NRC Committee had with stakeholders, some indicated
a desire to knowáthe percentage of adults in the U.S. whoseáliteracy
skills were so low that theyáwould be regarded as "not literate."á
TheáNonliterate 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.á Stakeholdersáalso indicated that
it would be useful to knowáthe percentage of adults who could read a
little but not very well, and the Below Basic Literacyácategory is
intended toárespond toáthis information need. 
Because the ALSA was not available in 1992, it is not possible to
identify the group ofáadults who should be classified asáNonliterate in
English.áSo, for the 1992 results, all of the individuals whose scores
were lower than the cut score for Basic were classifiedáas Below Basic
(that is, the lowest category for NALS is the Below Basic category).á
Therefore, when making trend comparisons (between the 1992 NALS results
and the 2003 NAAL results), theá2003 percentagesáin Nonliterateáin
English and ináBelow Basicáneed to be combined.á This will allow
measuring growth over time in the percentages of individuals in the
lowest category of literacy.á 
I hope that this provides additional information to explain what the
Committee intended by formingáthese two performance levels.á I welcome
this opportunity to further discuss thisáand other topics about our
report. áááá 
Judy Koenig
NRC Study Director for the Committee on Performance Levels for Adult

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