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From: Marie Cora (
Date: Thu Jul 14 2005 - 10:56:29 EDT

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Subject: [NIFL-ASSESSMENT:1163] Q&A for Teachers
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Hello everyone,
I wanted to let you all know that I will be on vacation next week.  I
have completed the summary of the discussion on performance levels for
adults, and it is up at the ALEWiki
(, and it should be
up at the Special Collection On-line Discussion page soon.  
I think that we had a rich discussion of that material, and I was hoping
to hear even more - perhaps from classroom teachers who may have
followed the discussion.  I'm wondering how all of that broad and
intense subject matter affects you and your students?  We see how it
affects things like policy and funding, but what about for the
practitioner in the classroom?  How do you work with performance levels
within your classroom?  What do you need to know and understand from
this discussion that will help you in your practice?  What are the
pieces of assessment that you need to know and understand in order to be
a better teacher?
Below I have posted 3 question/answer excerpts from the discussion that
focus on NRS and NAAL levels and how they might affect the teacher in
the classroom.  If you are so-inclined, I would really enjoy hearing
some of your comments on both my questions above, and on the excerpts
marie cora
Moderator, NIFL Assessment Discussion List, and
Coordinator/Developer LINCS Assessment Special Collection at
Q&A #1:
A primary concern of many direct providers of literacy services like me
is the accountability standards of the National Reporting System in
relation to the lowest level learners. Do you know if the new data will
be used or could be used to establish two very low levels in the NRS
system? Many providers feel it is not reasonable to expect learners who
score that low to achieve the equivalent of two grade levels per year in
order to meet NRS standards. For too many, progress is much slower. I
believe the current system creates a disincentive to serve the lowest
level learners because the accountability pressures are related to
funding. In short, unless something changes, many feel that serving "too
many" very low level learners could jeopardize an entire program. 
Response:  In identifying these levels, we were conscious of the fact
that one of the chief audiences for NAAL results is adult education
programs, which are guided legislatively by the Workforce Investment Act
of 1998. Title II of this act mandates an accountability system for
adult education programs, known as the [NRS] that specifies a set of
education functioning levels used in tracking the progress of enrollees.
Feedback from stakeholders emphasized the usefulness of creating levels
for NAAL aligned with the NRS levels. Although it was not possible to
establish a clear one-to-one correspondence between NAAL performance
levels and the NRS levels, there appears to be a rough parallel between
Non-literate in English and the NRS beginning literacy level; between
below basic and the NRS beginning basic and low intermediate levels; and
between basic and the NRS high intermediate level.  We tried to develop
performance levels that would be useful to a variety of audiences, but
particularly to adult educators who most address the requirements of
NRS. Given the scope of what is assessed by NALS/NAAL (e.g., the test
frameworks, specifications), it wasn't possible to completely align
NALS/NAAL levels with NRS levels, but we did the best that we could.
And, we provided the mapping from one to the other on page ES-6 to
assist with this.
Q&A #2:
Has there been any correlations of the "standard" assessments (TABE,
CASAS,) and the GED Tests, including the English Proficiency test (Test
6) to the 2003 NAALS, or for that matter to the NRS? 
Response:  Our report discusses the performance levels we recommend be
used for reporting the 2003 NAAL results, and for purposes of
exemplification, we applied the levels and cut scores to the 1992 NALS
results. Our report doesn't include any actual date from the 2003 NAAL
because the Department of Education has not yet publicly released them.
The Department was awaiting our recommendations for performance levels
and cut scores before reporting the 2003 results, and they are now in
the process of preparing their reports. Once the 2003 NAAL results are
released, I would expect that analyses that had been conducted with the
1992 NALS (such as the GED study) would be replicated with the new
Q&A #3:
Do we have any evidence that the NALS data have been used by any of
these audiences to improve adult literacy education services? My
impression is that practitioners do not (perhaps cannot) use the NALS
data to improve instruction. And my experience with policy makers is
that the NALS findings -- the large numbers of Americans in need of
literacy skills -- has been dismissed as an exaggeration, or has
resulted in a throwing up of hands of hopelessness. What exactly, do you
think, is the added value of these studies? For example, do you think
the NAAL will be more useful to practitioners and policy makers than the
NALS?  If so, why? 
Response:  I can only address this from the aspect of the performance
levels, since this is what the committee's report is about. The
committee intentionally designed the performance levels to address
specific policy and programmatic questions, and the report is pretty
explicit about this (see bullets on ES-4 and supporting discussion on
pgs. 4-11 and 4-12). I think that the committee hopes (and anticipates)
that reporting NAAL results using these performance levels will enhance
their usefulness to those making policy and programmatic decisions. I'm
not sure that the levels could be used by adult educators to improve
instruction per se, but would be interested in hearing your (and other
listserv participants') ideas about this. 

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