PIAAC: A Once in a Decade Opportunity

A “once in a decade opportunity” was how OVAE Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier described the Department of Education’s anticipation of the pending release of the international survey of adult skills and competencies, known by it’s acronym as PIAAC. Led by the OECD, the survey was conducted in 24 countries among adults 16-65 years of age. An international comparison report will be released by the OECD on October 8, 2013 along with the datasets and web-based tools for analysis.

Dann-Messier was speaking at a meeting on March 13, where the U.S. Department of Labor and the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) hosted a discussion of PIAAC with labor force economists, researchers, and workforce association leaders. The opportunity Dann-Messier described was to use the survey findings to spotlight the importance to adults of strong foundational literacy and numeracy skills to improved life outcomes and economic stability.  ETA Assistant Secretary Jane Oates also emphasized in her remarks that economic development and education are integrally related and that she looked forward to incorporating the PIAAC results in data-based decisions about education and training for U.S. workers.

Findings from the survey will provide a rich and nuanced profile of adults’ demographics and backgrounds, education and training, as well as skills used at work. Sub-test scales will include reading components, literacy, numeracy, and problem-solving in a technology-rich environment (see more about the components in this background report). The survey’s design was groundbreaking as it used laptops to deliver a multi-stage adaptive assessment. Trends will connect current national skill levels with previous assessments such as the IALS and the ALL (see http://nces.ed.gov/surveys/all/).

Participants at the meeting agreed that the survey and the related data and tools have enormous potential to spur new research interests and policy directions. Participants also pledged to help disseminate information about the survey and findings through their networks to ensure that the country fully seizes this “once in a decade” opportunity.

Stay tuned for more PIAAC updates on this blog!