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NIFL-ASSESSMENT 2005: [NIFL-ASSESSMENT:1111] Tom Sticht's conce

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From: Debbie Yoho (
Date: Wed Jun 22 2005 - 16:59:01 EDT

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Subject: [NIFL-ASSESSMENT:1111] Tom Sticht's concerns about ALL
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Tom Sticht is to be congratulated, once more, for his tireless stand for
quality and accuracy in everything we do.  However, I think that those of
us in the field have little to contribute about the ongoing issues of
validity regarding the NALS and ALL instruments.  From a practical
standpoint, it is an argument among statisticians, researchers and policy
makers, and no literacy practicitioner I know is equipped to discuss the
issue intelligently, including me.  But I do think his comments underscore
a serious problem we have throughout the field of adult ed: the need to
come to a place of common ground in defining concepts such as "literacy",
"reading", "adult education", "proficiency", and "measurement". This is a
reflection of the challenge of putting research into practice, and of
practice informing research.

Rightly or wrongly, the statistics from the NALS are in wide use and have
been for some time, and from where I sit have helped, not hindered, the
case for more services.  I expect and hope the ALL will do the same thing. 
Having said that, because I respect Tom's expertise, I always use the NALS
numbers with the caveat that the figures may be too high or too low,
stressing that a person's proficiency is always a matter of context, and
therefore shifts across a continuum.  No single measurement or instrument
can capture those dynamics.

On the other hand, a major practical problem for practitioners, as alluded
to in a previous post I offered in this discussion, is that the NALS
certainly masked the prevalence and seriousness of the reading problem many
adults struggle with.  Hence the good news of two categories "below basic".
It seems to me the ALL has been constructed with a lot of input from the
field on this issue, and therefore must be an improvement, not a continued
muddying of the waters.

For the Cause of Literacy for All!  Debbie

Deborah W. Yoho
Co-moderator, NIFL-Health Listserv
Executive Director, Greater Columbia Literacy Council
Past President, SC Adult Literacy Educators
2728 Devine Street,  Columbia, SC  29205
803-765-2555   Fax  803-799-8417

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