Since years of schooling completed is the single best predictor of literacy skills, one way to answer this question is to look at the distribution of skills by levels of educational attainment. Those judged to be in Level 1 on the survey had literacy proficiencies that were defined at or below 225 on a 500-point scale. The 40 million adults in this level demonstrated proficiencies that were below the average performance of adults who had dropped out of high school (231) and far below the average performance of those adults who terminated their education with a high school diploma (270) or GED (268).
This comparison is important because most U.S. states identify people who are in need of adult education services as those who are 16 years of age and older and who have not earned their high school diploma or GED. As stated in the 1975 book Toward a Literate Society: The Report of the Committee on Reading of the National Academy of Education, We take the position that the ‘reading problem’ in the United States should not be stated as one of teaching people to read at the level of minimum literacy, but rather as one of ensuring that every person arriving at adulthood will be able to read and understand the whole spectrum of printed materials that one is likely to encounter in daily life. … our national educational policy is that every child is expected to complete at least the twelfth grade; we ought then to expect every child to attain twelfth-grade literacy.”
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