U.S. Department of Education sent this bulletin at 10/31/2013 05:57 AM EDT
OVAE Connection - Issue 171 - October 31, 2013
PIAAC Results Released
8, the Organization
for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released the results of the Program
for International Assessment of Adult Competencies, (PIAAC). This direct assessment was
conducted with nationally representative samples from 23 countries from adults
ages 16 through 65. It is an international household survey to assess the
cognitive and workplace skills needed for success in the 21st-century global
economy. The results are designed to help public, private, educational, and
philanthropic sectors work with a shared language and set of benchmarks to
enhance cooperation around the development and implementation of economic,
education, and social policies that strengthen adult skills. The survey is
intended to be administered every 10 years, making this a baseline report to
set benchmarks against which countries and sectors can measure their
improvement efforts. Multiple reports, datasets, and several data tools were
released with the results, including:
12, 2013, the OECD-authored report, Time for the United States to Reskill? What
the Survey of Adult Skills Says, will be released. This report was
funded by OVAE to offer a more detailed profile of low-skilled adults in the
U.S. It will also identify policy implications and offer broad policy
recommendations for the U.S.
all of these resources, as well as events and press coverage, may be found at www.piaacgateway.com.
article relies heavily on data included in the NCES “First Look” report. Further
analysis of the PIAAC data will appear in future issues of OVAE Connection.
assessment focuses on the working-age adult population, and measures cognitive
and workplace skills necessary for successful participation in the 21st century
society and global economy. In the U.S., as in all of the countries
participating, 5,000 individuals were surveyed to create a nationally
representative dataset. An additional 5,000 people will be surveyed for a
supplement that will be added to the data set in 2015.
from a rich background questionnaire, the PIAAC measures relationships among respondents’
educational background, parental educational attainment, work history and
skills, occupational attainment, use of information and communications
technology, and cognitive skills in the domains of literacy, numeracy, and
problem solving in technology-rich environments.
are presented in the First Look
report as country averages, and tables are used to place countries’
performances above, at, or below the international average. Within each domain,
performance is also reported as a percentage of the population that performs in
five levels of proficiency: Below Level 1, Level 1, Level 2, Level 3, and combined
Levels 4/5, Level descriptors can be found in the First Look report in Exhibit B-1 for literacy, B-3 for numeracy,
and B-5 for problem-solving in a technology-rich environment. Performance below
Level 2 is considered “weak” or “low.”
assessment is unique in that it is the first international literacy survey that
is both adaptive and administered on a laptop computer. Given as a household
survey, respondents were allowed to choose whether to take the assessment on a
laptop or with pencil and paper. In the U.S., nearly 80 percent of respondents
completed the survey on the computer, which means that they passed an initial
screening test on basic computer use and navigation.
direct measure of cognitive and workplace skills in this study creates a much
more nuanced perspective on skills than the more commonly reported measure of
educational attainment. For example, the attainment category of “some college,”
which appears on many surveys of adult skills, says very little about the
knowledge, skills, and abilities of an individual, and is rarely accompanied by
information on the courses taken, training completed, and skills gained. Having
more information about skills, including where they are learned and how they
are used, as this survey provides, will inform educators, workforce development
stakeholders, human resource personnel, employers, and policymakers about the
mechanisms that are effective in increasing the skill and talent inventory in
regions, sectors, and across the country.
domains (literacy, numeracy, and problem-solving in a technology-rich
environment) the U.S. average
performance is significantly lower than the international average. Within
domains, the U.S. profile shows a large portion of adults with skills below
Level 2, and small percentages of adults with strong skills in the upper level.
literacy domain, the U.S. average percentile performance is 270; the
international average is 273. Within the domain, the U.S. profile shows 4
percent at Below Level 1, 14 percent at Level 1, 34 percent at Level 2, 36
percent at Level 3, and 12 percent at the combined Level 4/5. The U.S. has an
equivalent percentage of adults in the highest level as the international
average, 12 percent (see First Look,
numeracy domain, the U.S. average performance is 253; the international average
is 269. Within the domain, the U.S. profile shows 10 percent at Below Level 1,
20 percent at Level 1, 34 percent at Level 2, 27 percent at Level 3, and 9
percent at the combined Level 4/5. The U.S. has a lower percentage of adults in
the highest level than the international average, which is 12 percent (see First Look, Figure 2B).
problem-solving in a technology-rich environment, the U.S. average performance
is 277; the international average is 283. Within the domain, which reports only
four levels, the U.S. profile shows 20 percent at Below Level 1, 41 percent at
Level 1, 33 percent at Level 2, and 6 percent at Level 3. The U.S. has a lower
percentage of adults in the highest level than the international average, which
is 8 percent (see First Look, Figure
PIAAC item framework is aligned to previous international literacy assessments,
allowing trend analysis for the past 20 years. The First Look report shows that the average U.S. literacy score for
adults on the PIAAC is not significantly lower than it was in 2003-08 as
reported on the International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS), but is lower than
the average score was in 1994-98 as reported on the Adult Literacy and
Lifeskills Survey (ALL) (Tables 1-A and 1-B). The average U.S. numeracy score
on the PIAAC is lower than it was in 2003-08 as reported in the IALS.
survey findings show that the U.S. has significant basic skill weaknesses within
the adult working-age population in comparison to other industrialized
countries. This skill profile has negative implications for the growth and
strength of the U.S. economy and middle class. Although two-thirds of the low-skilled
respondents in the U.S. sample are employed, they are not employed in jobs with
findings show that work tasks influence skills. Adults who report frequently
using literacy, numeracy, and problem-solving skills in their daily work
routines have greater proficiencies in those skills. The reverse is also shown
in the data: Workers in low-skilled jobs may have fewer opportunities to use
and enhance their skills (see First Look,
Figures 8 A, B, and C).
skills have implications for civic life as well, as has been demonstrated in
previous surveys of adult literacy. Adults with weak skills are less likely to
vote or volunteer in their communities, and more likely to suffer poor health.
In fact, adults with low skills are four
times more likely to report “fair” or “poor” health than those with strong
skills (see First Look, Figures 10 A,
B, and C). This relationship is twice as
strong as the international average.
a concerning trend emerges in this data set. Unlike most other countries
surveyed, in the U.S., younger cohorts’ skills are not surpassing the older
cohorts’ skills. This has serious implications for the future of our workforce
and underscores the need for continuing education and training.
Watch OVAE Connection and the OVAE
information on ways to participate in person or virtually in the event on Nov.
12 at the Center for American Progress which will release Time for the U.S. to Reskill? and
explore the policy implications of the findings in this report.