Assessing Adult Literacy by Telephone.Report as inadecuate

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Recently, several industrialized nations have engaged in extensive and expensive assessments of adult literacy using door-to-door surveys and tests of functional reading. A study examined the use of simple checklists of author's names, magazine titles, famous people's names, and vocabulary works used earlier by West, Stanovich and Miller (1993) to sample adults' declarative knowledge by telephone. Data were derived from telephone interviews with 538 randomly selected adults residing in the San Diego, California, metropolitan area, and by a survey mailed to a subsample of 280 of these adults who agreed to participate (about 50 percent of the surveys were returned). Analyses revealed strong relationships among checklist knowledge (r = .80) when assessed either by listening (telephone) or by reading (mailed surveys). A comparison of findings using the telephone methodology with that of the recent U.S. Department of Education's National Adult Literacy Survey (NALS) showed that all major relationships of literacy to education, age, gender, occupation, income, ethnicity, father's and mother's education that have been found in the NALS and other literacy surveys over the past 75 years were found with the telephone method. Given the much lower cost of telephone versus door-to-door surveys (less than one-sixth the cost), the results suggest that the assessment of adult literacy by telephone is a promising and cost-effective method that should be further developed as a means of monitoring national progress toward the achievement of greater levels of adult literacy, as well as other important aspects of adult knowledge development, such as acculturation for immigrants and technical knowledge for vocational and professional education. (Contains 43 references.) (Author/KC)

Descriptors: Adult Basic Education, Adult Literacy, Educational Research, Mail Surveys, Research Design, Research Methodology, Telephone Surveys

Author: Sticht, Thomas G.; And Others


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