PIAAC: the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies
Submitted by Marie Cora on April 18, 2013 - 10:22am
In this issue of the CAAL newsletter, there is info on PIAAC, the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies. They just completed their second meeting of the project, and some materials are available to understand the nature and goals of this international project. This assessment will focus on skills such as reading and writing, but it will also focus on problem-solving skills and technology. It appears to be a very comprehensive approach to gauging skill and ability. One of the issues they hope will be addressed by this new assessment is the nature of wage inequality, which I find absolutely intriguing.
Below is the write-up from the CAAL newsletter which has links to further information.
Has anyone heard about this assessment? Have you been involved in some way with its development? What are your thoughts regarding assessments that go beyond literacy and math skills and also gauge abilities like problem-solving? Do you think that such an international assessment is useful/valuable?
The American Institutes for Research held a second invitational meeting in Washington, D.C. on March 13th to give a progress report and explain the key features of PIAAC, the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies. Representatives of several workforce development groups were attended. Irwin Kirsch of Educational Testing Service (ETS is the lead contractor in this international effort) gave a slide presentation to promote better understanding. The presentation is available in PDF from the CAAL website.
The Assessment findings will be released internationally this fall, along with an online resource that will enable organizations, states, and other entities to assess the competencies and skills of specific populations in real time. CAAL's E-News of December 2012 provides details.
Some interesting highlights of the March meeting follow:
- The Departments of Education and Labor plan to work closely to make full use of the PIAAC results. Important interconnections and communications are being developed between these two departments and other federal departments. Education and Labor officials noted that the PIAAC data will be "a galvanizing force for federal planning and action" and "help us form a bold ambitious plan to transform adult education and learning."
- A PIAAC research conference will be held in D.C. in November, including a two-day tutorial on how to use the online self-assessment resource. In the meantime, field testing of the online assessment tool will take place in various settings during June, and several focus group sessions are planned.
- The PIAAC assessment design was complicated. Among other things, through multi-stage adaptive testings and the use of "testlets," it was able to measure a much broader range of competencies and skills. It could do automatic scoring in real time, and will generate trend data with ties back to the IALS of the 1990s and the ALL of 2002-03.
- PIAAC is the first study that has tested Reading across languages -- the PIAAC component specifically designed to provide a better understanding of people at the lower end of the competency/skill scale. It will also be able to show how much literacy is needed for certain purposes, such as problem solving, with data provided in a way that will help programs build service interventions.
- PIAAC will make it possible to compare skills by educational levels, on a country-by-country basis, and will be "strong on what it means to be at a certain point on the scale."
- PIAAC's scope and results will be geared more to the private sector (e.g., recruiters and employers) than earlier assessments.
- The PIAAC may explain more about the nature of wage inequality in the U.S. and abroad than former tests. For example, the U.S. probably has more temporary contracts for its employees, which may be one explanation for its high inequality ranking.
For information on the PIAAC background questionnaire, its history and design, and other aspects of this unprecedented international project (more than 22 countries are involved), visit the website of the National Center for Educational Statistics.