Working Papers (

Document Type

Technical Report

Date of this Version



The prospect of developing content, performance, and opportunity-to-learn standards for adult literacy has generated much discussion. However, the lack of a common vocabulary and the relatively narrow range of interests represented in these discussions have been major impediments to progress in developing standards for adult literacy. This paper reviews literature on the theory and practice of education standards and summarizes the progress toward designing content, performance, and opportunity-to-learn standards for adult literacy. This review helps to highlight the technical issues and challenges to standards-based reform of the field. The development of efficient and equitable accountability systems for adult literacy programs will require ongoing efforts to define desirable knowledge and skills and to develop more authentic measures of learning outcomes. The particular challenges posed by issues of equity, diversity, and coordination of service provision call for a broadly based participatory process in developing and implementing adult literacy standards.

Copyright/Permission Statement

Originally published as NCAL Technical Report TR95-04 by the National Center on Adult Literacy © 1995. NCAL is associated with the International Literacy Institute (ILI) which is in turn situated under the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania.



Date Posted: 31 May 2018