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Assessment Strategies and Reading Profiles

Adult Readers

Acronyms and Abbreviations

GE = Grade Equivalent

NNSE = Non-native Speakers of English

The federally funded Adult Basic Education (ABE) system in the United States is designed to serve two categories of adult learners:

  • those who lack a high school diploma and/or high school-level academic skills;
  • and immigrants seeking to learn English or improve their English language and literacy skills.

The ASRP Web site is focused primarily on the first category of learners, those seeking high school credentials and skills, including the many Non-native Speakers of English enrolled in ABE classes. The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Adult and Vocational Education (OVAE) is the agency that provides federal funding for adult education and gathers data on adult learner outcomes through its National Reporting System (NRS). The NRS classifies adults seeking high school credentials into six levels of functioning:


NRS Levels of Functioning

Beginning Adult Basic Education (ABE) Literacy GE 0-1.9
Beginning Adult Basic Education GE 2-3.9
Low Intermediate Adult Basic Education GE 4-5.9
High Intermediate Adult Basic Education GE 6-8.9
Low Adult Secondary Education (ASE) GE 9-10.9
High Adult Secondary Education GE 11-12
See detailed descriptions of the above levels.  

The ASRP Web site refers to the above NRS levels in discussions of the components of reading, assessments, and learner profiles. The levels help to illustrate how adult learners' instructional needs vary according to their level of ability:

  • Learners in the two Beginning ABE levels are focused primarily on acquiring decoding skills—translating symbols (letters) into sounds (words);
  • those in the two Intermediate ABE levels are focused primarily on reading fluently and acquiring more literate vocabulary;
  • and those in the two Adult Secondary levels are focused on acquiring Background Knowledge, reading strategies, and writing to prepare for the General Educational Development (GED) tests.

Non-native Speakers of English (NNSE)

Adults enrolled in ESL classes are not the focus of the ASRP site. However, many learners who are enrolled in ABE Beginning, Intermediate, and Adult Secondary classes are not native speakers of English. They have acquired English as a second or additional language. These English language learners are a very diverse population:

  • Some are former ESL learners who have acquired fluent English speaking skills and now wish to improve their English reading and writing. They may also wish to acquire a GED or other U.S. high school credential. How much native language education they have had contributes to their rate of progress: those with more years of native language education are usually able to make faster progress than those with more limited education.
  • Other NNSE came to the U.S. as children and received varying amounts of their education in U.S. schools. Those who completed most of their K-12 schooling in the U.S. are often not very different from U.S.-born learners at a given level in terms of their strengths and needs in reading, while those who have attended only a few years of school in the U.S. may look more like former ESL learners.

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