You are here

Share What You Know About Adult Literacy: Libraries Invited to Provide Input

January 23, 2014

A Joint OVAE-IMLS UpNext Blog Post

By Heidi Silver-Pacuilla
Team Leader, Applied Innovation and Improvement Division of Adult Education and Literacy
Office of Vocational and Adult Education U.S. Department of Education

Results from the latest international study of adult skills, Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) Survey of Adult Skills, show that the U.S. workforce trails many other developed nations in foundational skills essential for both individuals and the nation as a whole to thrive. These skills include the ability to read, the ability to understand numbers and do math, and the ability to solve problems using technology.

In order for the Department of Education to better understand the challenges involved in improving these skills, gather input from a wide range of stakeholders, and inform development of a national response, the Assistant Secretary of Education Brenda Dann-Messier has launched a national engagement process to obtain feedback. The goal of this process is to develop a national action plan to improve foundation skills of adults in the United States.

Libraries play an important role in boosting adults’ foundational skills and they have the ability to offer important insights that can help shape the national action plan.   Your library can take part by hosting roundtable discussion to provide input on the plan.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Vocational and Adult Education and the Institute of Museum and Library Services invite libraries to visit to learn more about hosting a roundtable.  The site’s many resources include:

  • A consultation paper, a 10-page paper that can be shared in advance of an event to provide background on the skills issue and the framework for the National Action Plan
  • A toolkit, a step-by-step guide to running a local roundtable from types of people to invite to what questions to pose
  • An online feedback form (Please submit comments by March 14 to be considered in the Plan.)

You can learn more about the results of the study by reading Time for the U.S. to Reskill? What the Survey of Adult Skills Says, a report completed by OECD at the request of the U.S. Department of Education.

This report found that while other countries have been showing improvements in equipping their adults with foundational skills, the United States has remained relatively unchanged in the decade since the last report. This stagnation has caused Americans’ skills to fall further behind their international counterparts; nearly 36 million Americans fell in the lowest two (of five) levels of skill performance.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Adult Education and Family Literacy Act program  is the primary federal program that provides out-of-school basic skills and English literacy instruction for youth and adults. The program, managed by the OVAE, helps learners acquire the skills and knowledge to become productive workers, parents, and citizens. Last year, this successful federal, state, and local partnership served approximately 1.8 million individuals who had not completed high school, had limited English proficiency, or lacked the foundational skills to function effectively in society.

Libraries provide unique literacy services such as one-on-one tutoring, English conversation groups, homework assistance, family literacy programs, classroom space, computer and Internet access, and more. Many partnerships also share professional development and training events for instructors and tutors. These programs and services increase the number of adults served in these communities.  Please consider hosting a roundtable discussion in your area and contributing to the national action plan. You are part of the solution!