U.S. Update

Adding to What We Know: The U.S. PIAAC National Supplement
Readers of The PIAAC Buzz who have expressed interest in a richer U.S. data set to help us understand more about key subgroups of interest in the adult population will be glad to know that NCES is supporting an effort to increase the U.S. sample size by 3,600 adults, using the same procedures, instruments, and assessments that were used in the PIAAC Main Study.
PIAAC researchers are currently in the field collecting data for the U.S. National Supplement from an additional sample of three key groups:

  • unemployed adults, ages 16–65;

  • young adults, ages 16–34; and

  • older adults, ages 66–74.

The new data will almost double the number of U.S. adults included in PIAAC and will enable policymakers, business leaders, and educators to conduct more detailed analyses of these three subgroups so that they can develop responses targeted more carefully to their needs.

In the spring of 2014, NCES will support a further expansion of the PIAAC data, this time through the PIAAC U.S. Prison Study, which will enable us to understand more about the skills of incarcerated adults, a group not included in the PIAAC main study. The study will draw from a sample of 1,200 inmates ages 16–74, currently detained in state, federal, or private prisons in the United States.

Like the main study, the prison study will include direct assessments of literacy, numeracy, and problem-solving in technology-rich environments.  It will also include a detailed background questionnaire tailored to the needs and experiences of incarcerated adults, covering their activities in prison (e.g., participation in academic programs and ESL classes), experiences with prison jobs, and involvement in nonacademic programs, such as employment readiness classes.
Results from the U.S. National Supplement and Prison Study will be available in late 2015 to early 2016.

Time for the U.S. to Reskill: National OVAE Engagement Process
In response to the PIAAC results that revealed a very large low-skilled adult population in the United States, the Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) of the U.S. Department of Education has launched a national engagement process aimed at developing a national action plan to improve the foundational skills of U.S. adults. OVAE is holding several engagement sessions across the country to get feedback on the national action plan from various stakeholders, including state officials, education officials, policymakers, industry and labor leaders, researchers, data experts, education associations, and foundations.

The first engagement session took place in Washington, DC, in November and was attended by over 50 education and business leaders. Brenda Dann-Messier, the Assistant Secretary for Vocational and Adult Education, opened the session; NCES Commissioner Jack Buckley presented an overview of the PIAAC results; and OVAE Deputy Director Johan Uvin provided an overview of the policy recommendations from the OECD’s U.S. Country Report and an introduction to the proposed framework for the national action plan. Following remarks by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, a panel discussion was held on the subject of the PIAAC findings. Panel participants included Mark Greenberg, Acting Assistant Secretary for the Administration for Children and Families of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Eric Seleznow, Acting Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training/Deputy Assistant Secretary for the U.S. Department of Labor; Richard Laine, Director of the Education Division of the National Governors Association; Matt Erskine, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development; and Alejandra Ceja, Executive Director for the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. At the end of the session, attendees shared their ideas and feedback on the process in small groups. The video stream from the national engagement session is available at the following link:

Regional engagement events took place in Philadelphia, PA; Chicago, IL; Cleveland, MS; San Jose, CA; and the greater Boston, MA, area between December 2013 and January 2014. OVAE has also invited stakeholders to hold their own local engagement events. Additional information and resources, including a free downloadable toolkit that provides information on how to host an event and prepare a summary of key findings to send to OVAE, can be found at http://timetoreskill.org.

Upcoming PIAAC Research Funding Opportunity
AIR will be inviting researchers to apply for funds to conduct research using the PIAAC dataset. Additional information will be available in the next issue of The PIAAC Buzz.


PIAAC on the Road

After the PIAAC data were released on October 8, 2013, the PIAAC calendar quickly began to fill with requests for presentations. Many of these requests came from participants in the planning sessions that NCES held over the past year, in partnership with OVAE and the Department of Labor, to ensure that federal employees—as well as key education, labor, and health literacy stakeholders—were aware of the availability of a new source of data about the skills of working-age adults. Below is a list of presentations—both live and by webinar—that NCES and AIR participated in between October and December of 2013:

  • October 15 at the National Career Pathways Network Conference in  San Antonio, TX

  • October 22 at the Department of Energy in Washington, DC

  • October 23 at the Urban Institute in Washington, DC

  • October 29 at the National Institutes of Health’s Health Literacy Conference

  • October 30 at the Literacy Funders Network

  • November 1 at the Proliteracy Conference in Washington, DC

  • November 7 at the AAACE Conference in Lexington, KY

  • November 18 at the Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture

  • November 21 at the W.E. Upjohn Institute in Kalamazoo, Michigan

  • December 4 at the Capitol Region Education Council

If you are interested in arranging a presentation for your organization or community, please send an e-mail to piaac@air.org

PIAAC Around the World

PIAAC Research Conference

On November 13–15, 2013, the Educational Testing Service (ETS) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) jointly sponsored a PIAAC Invitational Research Conference in Washington DC that focused on the importance of skills and how to assess them.
Attended by 250 researchers and policymakers from the 34 countries participating in the first and second rounds of PIAAC, the conference provided a marathon first look at how PIAAC works and the big-picture policy questions it can help us address. It also provided an opportunity to brainstorm with representatives from other countries about our common concerns and the policy choices we are making to address the skills deficits revealed by PIAAC.
The conference was full of highlights:

  • a wonderful introductory video on the importance of PIAAC (you can view it at http://vimeo.com/79372616).

  • a keynote address by OECD Deputy Director for Education and Skills Andreas Schleicher that provided an overview of what PIAAC tells us about the relationship between “better skills, better jobs, and better lives.”

  • six provocative research sessions, each of which included presentations from researchers from two different OECD countries and a response from a researcher from a third country.

  • a wide-ranging policy panel that reinforced the idea that, in the words of Bob Wise, former governor of West Virginia and current president of the Alliance for Excellent Education, “improving skills can turn losing economies into winning ones.”

  • a beautiful summing up by John Martin, former OECD Director for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs.

To learn more about the conference and download some of the presentations, visit http://www.ets.org/c/22217/agenda.html   


The Centre for Literacy's Fall Institute 2013 in Montreal, Canada- Interpreting PIAAC Results: Understanding Competencies of the Future (October 27-29)

Submitted by Professor Steve Reder, Portland State University

This institute was the third in a series exploring international adult literacy and skills surveys, from IALS to PIAAC. I’ve participated in these institutes and enjoyed the rich mix of researchers, policymakers, practitioners, and providers of adult literacy they draw. This recent institute took place shortly after the release of the PIAAC data and featured numerous presentation and discussion sessions, including keynote addresses by Francis Green, on skill use in the workplace; by David Rosen and Heidi Silver-Pacuilla, on the digital problem-solving proficiency assessed by PIAAC; and by Namir Anani, on new technologies and digital literacy. There were also presentations connecting PIAAC with research. Two that caught my attention were Manuel Cardoso’s report on UNESCO’s Literacy Assessment and Monitoring Project that utilizes PIAAC’s Reading Component scales to assess low-skilled adults in Mongolia, Palestine, Paraguay, and Jordan; and Jean-Pierre Corbeil’s presentation on how PIAAC data might be combined with other datasets to shed light on the skills and needs of specific populations: minority-language groups, aboriginal groups, and immigrants. Interest in connections between PIAAC and other studies should grow as the Education and Skills Online web-based assessment tool is released for use by researchers and programs. 

Although most participants in these institutes come from Canada, there’s a nice international mix to add to the strong Canadian network that the Centre for Literacy has cultivated. This has created a space for dialogue among researchers, policymakers, and providers that enables contrasting points of view to be shared and debated—hopefully, one that will translate research findings into meaningful interventions and inform more responsive policy. I heartily recommend attending one of these institutes. Links between PIAAC and the PISA school survey will be the focus of the Centre for Literacy’s upcoming summer institute. 

To learn more about the Centre for Literacy and to register for the summer institute, visit http://www.centreforliteracy.qc.ca.


The OECD’s Andreas Schleicher refers to PIAAC as the adult PISA, since both assessments emphasize knowledge and skills in the context of everyday situations, asking test takers to perform tasks that involve real-world materials as much as possible. Results from the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) were released by NCES and the OECD on December 3, 2013. Like PIAAC, PISA is an international assessment coordinated through the OECD.  While PIAAC assesses working-age adults, ages 16 through 65, PISA targets 15-year-olds, enabling participating countries to compare outcomes of learning as students near the end of compulsory schooling.

And like PIAAC, PISA results raise concerns about how well we are doing at building the skills of the U.S. population. U.S 15-year-old students remained below the OECD average score in mathematics and not measurably different from the OECD average in science and reading. While some countries showed marked improvements in PISA scores over the past decade (the first PISA assessments were in 2000), the U.S. results showed no measurable change in average scores in mathematics, science, or reading literacy. For more information about the most recent PISA data, see http://nces.ed.gov/surveys/pisa/ or http://www.pisaday.org



On the Road with PIAAC

Time to Reskill Practitioner Webinar
February 13, 2014
Register here

Literacy Funders Network Conference
February 18, 2014
Washington, DC

Comparative International Education Society (CIES)
March 10-14, 2014
Toronto, Canada

COABE PAAAC National Conference
March 19, 2014
Pittsburgh, PA

National Association of Workforce Boards (NAWB)
March 29- April 1, 2014
Washington, DC

Literacy Connections Conference
April 3, 2014
Waterville, ME

American Educational Research Association (AERA)
April 3-7, 2014
Philadelphia, PA

To learn more about the presentations, visit www.piaacgateway.com 


PIAAC on the Web

NEW on the PIAAC Gateway:

National Center for Education Statistics: http://nces.ed.gov/surveys/piaac/
The PIAAC Background Questionnaire: http://nces.ed.gov/surveys/piaac/questionnaire.asp
Organization for the Economic Cooperation and Development: http://www.oecd.org/site/piaac/


PIAAC Presentations Available on YouTube

Several presentations from one of our first “Planning for PIAAC” outreach sessions were recorded and are available to the public on YouTube.
The presentations provide detailed descriptions about different aspects of PIAAC:

PIAAC Overview 
by Irwin Kirsch, Director of the Center for Global Assessment at ETS
PIAAC Literacy Domain 
by John Sabatini, Principal Research Scientist at ETS
PIAAC Numeracy 
by Kentaro Yamamoto, Deputy Director of the Center for Global Assessment at ETS
PIAAC Problem Solving in Technology-Rich Environments 
by M. Anne Britt, Professor of Psychology at Northern Illinois University
PIAAC Background Questionnaire 
by Matthias von Davier, Research Director at ETS



Take Action

What are some strategies for promoting PIAAC at the local and state levels?
This is a question we have been asked by several readers of The PIAAC Buzz
Here are some suggestions for how you can help promote PIAAC:

Forward this e-mail to your colleagues and encourage them to sign up for our newsletter.
Download and print our informational brochures to learn more about PIAAC and share the printed copies with your colleagues.
Post information about PIAAC on the websites, blogs, and discussion lists frequented by your colleagues.
Share information about PIAAC with colleagues at conferences or other events. 

Do you have a plan for PIAAC that you’d like to share with others?
Would your organization benefit from a webinar or a guest speaker?
Contact us at piaac@air.org.

Copyright © |2013| |American Institutes for Research|, All rights reserved.

PIAAC is funded by the National Center for Education Statistics of the U.S. Department of Education