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The State Adult Literacy Survey: A Look at Results for Ohio

Executive Summary

Statistical Profile for Ohio

The State Adult Literacy Survey (SALS) examined the literacy skills of adults in 12 states. Conducted in 1992, this research project was a component of the National Adult Literacy Survey (NALS), a large-scale assessment funded by the U.S. Department of Education and administered by the Educational Testing Service.

The Ohio survey: The Ohio Adult Literacy Survey (OALS) was designed to assess Ohio adults' literacy skills according to their performance on tasks that reflected the types of materials and demands adults encounter in their daily lives. A total of 1,568 adults, 16 years of age and older, were randomly chosen and surveyed. They represent approximately 8.3 million adults statewide. Each participant was asked to spend approximately an hour responding to a series of literacy tasks as well as to questions about his or her demographic characteristics, educational background, employment, income, reading practices, etc.

How results were reported: Adults received proficiency scores (0-500) for three categories, or scales, each representing a distinct aspect of literacy: prose, document, and quantitative. For each of those scales, five levels of proficiency were defined: Level 1 (0-225), Level 2 (226-275), Level 3 (276-325), Level 4 (326-375), and Level 5 (376-500). Level 1 represents the lowest and Level 5 the highest level.

Literacy levels of adult Ohioans (for all three scales):

Composition of Level 1
Of those scoring on Level 1 on the quantitative scale, only 36% had completed high school or GED® -- as compared with 74% of adults statewide.

Of those scoring on Level 1 for all three scales: 40% were age 65 or older as compared to 17% of the state population, and 26% to 28% had physical or mental conditions that prevent full participation in school, work, or other activities, compared to 11% of the state population.

Profiles of Adult Literacy in Ohio

Correlations between education and literacy scores

EDUCATION                        AVERAGE PROSE SCORE

0-8 years                         	210

9-12 years                       	235

high-school diploma              	276

some postsecondary education        	302

two-year postsecondary education  	320

four-year postsecondary education  	317

The average scores of school dropouts in Ohio who had studied for a GED® or high-school-equivalency diploma were 41-43 points higher on each literacy scale than the scores of dropouts who had not participated in such a program.

41% of the Ohio respondents who had studied for the GED® indicated they had received it.

Employment, Economic Status, and Civic Responsibility
Of employed respondents, 31-38% performed in Levels 1 and 2, while 59-64% of unemployed respondents performed in the same levels.

Voters had significantly higher scores than nonvoters.

Of adults designated as poor or near poor, 62-70% performed in Levels 1 and 2.

Median weekly earnings by literacy level:

Level 1    $197 - $205

Level 3    $314 - $332

Level 5    $560 - $594

Literacy practices
About 17% of the respondents said they had read no books in English in the past six months. Their scores were considerably lower, on average, than those who had read at least one book.

30% of those surveyed said that they never used a library. Frequent users performed better than non-users.

Respondents who got some or a lot of information from print media earned higher average scores than those who did not (278 to 283 as compared with 260 to 261).

The average proficiencies of individuals who only watch 2 hours of TV a day were 58-61 points higher than those of respondents who watch 6 hours or more a day.

Additional Findings
The average prose, document, and quantitative proficiencies of Ohio respondents were almost identical to those of adults living in the Midwest region and higher than those of adults nationwide.

Most adults who demonstrated limited skills described themselves as able to read and write English well.

Condensed by: Jean Stephens

Adult Literacy in Ohio: Results of the State Adult Literacy Survey by Lynn Jenkins and Irwin Kirsch, Educational Testing Service, 1994. Available from OLRC.

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