Literacy Performance Levels

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Findings from the first international study of adult literacy show the United States falling roughly in the middle range for what is termed "document literacy"--the ability to decipher tables, schedules, and maps--among adults ages 16 to 65. The following tables explain the lowest level for document literacy, 1, and the highest, 5, followed by the percentage of adults in each country performing at that level.

Document Level 1

Most of the tasks at this level require the reader to find a piece of information. Any distracting information, if present, would be printed far away from the correct answer. Some tasks may direct the reader to enter personal information onto a form.

     Canada                    18.2
     Germany                    9.0
     Netherlands               10.1
     Poland                    45.4
     Sweden                     6.2
     Switzerland (French)      16.2
     Switzerland (German)      18.1
     United States             23.7

Document Level 5

Tasks at this level require the reader to search through complex displays of information that contain multiple distractions to make high-level inferences, process conditional information, or use specialized knowledge.

     Canada                     5.4
     Germany                    1.9
     Netherlands                1.4
     Poland                     0.4
     Sweden                     7.7
     Switzerland (French)       1.9
     Switzerland (German)       1.9
     United States              3.7

Vol. 15, Issue 15

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