Kentucky: Council on Postsecondary Education

Council on Postsecondary Education
Literacy levels of Kentucky adults comparable to those in other states, study says

Press Release Date:  Thursday, December 15, 2005  
Contact Information:  Sue Patrick
502-573-1555 ext 308

Reecie Stagnolia
502-573-5436 ext. 124

The 2003 State Assessment of Adult Literacy released today by the Council on Postsecondary Education-Kentucky Adult Education reveals that the literacy of Kentucky adults is similar to the literacy of adults across the country, both for the general population as well as for certain population groups.  Kentucky was one of six states to invest in individual state reports from the National Center on Education Statistics in conjunction with the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy. 

The study classified a sample of Kentucky adults age 16 and older into four levels (below basic, basic, intermediate, and proficient) in three areas of literacy. The three areas studied included literacy skills in prose (continuous text), document (noncontinuous text in various formats), and quantitative (computations). Each level is associated with key abilities and identifies sample tasks that someone at this level should be able to perform:

  • Below Basic- indicates simple and concrete literacy skills, such as signing a form or adding the amounts on a bank deposit slip.
  • Basic- indicates skills necessary to perform simple and everyday literacy activities such as using a TV guide to find out what programs are on at a specific time or comparing the ticket prices for two events.
  • Intermediate- indicates skills necessary to perform moderately challenging literacy activities, such as identifying a specific location on a map or calculating the total cost of ordering supplies from a catalog.
  • Proficient- indicates skills necessary to perform more complex and challenging literacy activities, such as comparing viewpoints in two editorials or interpreting a table about blood pressure, age, and physical activity.

Some of the key findings of the study are as follows:

  • The literacy of Kentucky’s adults in the labor force – both full- and part-time workers – is comparable to the nation.
  • The percentage of adults ages 25 to 39 – a key age group in the labor force – with Below Basic prose and document literacy is lower in Kentucky compared to the nation.  The percentage of adults in this age group with Intermediate prose and quantitative literacy was higher in the state compared to the nation.
  • The literacy of Blacks in Kentucky is similar to the literacy of Blacks in the nation; however, the report shows that a significant achievement gap remains between literacy levels of Blacks and Whites.


Cheryl King, vice-president for Kentucky Adult Education, said the report provides mixed news.  “It’s encouraging to know Kentucky’s literacy skills are on par with those of the nation, especially among our working-age population,” she said.  “While there’s much to celebrate, there’s still much work left to do.”

Like the national assessment, the results from the Kentucky study suggest more work is needed to help some of Kentucky’s adults gain the literacy skills they need to compete for jobs and function in everyday life.  While Kentucky compares favorably with the nation, 42 percent of Kentucky adults are at the Basic and Below Basic levels in prose as compared 43 percent of the nation in those two levels. 

“The Council has set a goal of double the number of Kentuckians with bachelor’s degrees by 2020, said Tom Layzell, president of the Council on Postsecondary Education. “We cannot meet that goal when 42 percent of Kentuckians do not have the literacy skills that position them to be successful in college or the workforce. We must continue our efforts to prepare more Kentuckians for postsecondary education.”

The report released today is the first of two reports from the 2003 Kentucky State Assessment of Adult Literacy.  The second report will provide more detailed findings about the literacy of Kentucky’s adults, including literacy across workplace, family, and community settings, as well as health literacy. Results for each Kentucky county are expected to be available spring 2006.

Due to changes in the survey, results are not comparable to the results of the Kentucky Adult Literacy Survey released in 1997.  (The survey methodology and age range was changed, and results in 1997 were reported in five levels instead of four.)

For a full copy of the 2003 State Assessment of Adult Literacy, visit; the report can be found under "What's New on the right side of the home page." The 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy can be accessed from the National Center for Education Statistics site at

Kentucky Adult Education is a unit of the Council on Postsecondary Education and provides GED instruction, workforce education, family literacy, English as second language and reading instruction at adult education centers in every Kentucky county.  More information is available at .


Kentucky's postsecondary education system encompasses eight public institutions and the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, numerous independent institutions and Kentucky Adult Education. The system represents 231,612 students, 538,866 Kentucky alumni and 294,896 GED recipients. When Kentuckians earn postsecondary degrees, their skills improve and their wages go up; they are more likely to lead healthy lives and be engaged in their communities; and they build better futures for themselves and their families.



Last Updated 12/15/2005