Measuring Trends in Adult Literacy
Posted by Michele Diecuch on March 15, 2019 in categoryFacts & ResearchcategoryMember Tips

Every year, ProLiteracy conducts a survey of our 1,000 member organizations in all 50 states to measure local programmatic activities. We ask a number of questions about services provided, student and instructor demographics, instructional methods, and funding sources to measure yearly trends in the field.

The 2017-2018 Annual Statistical Report is based on data from member programs that serve 218,000 students with more than 86,000 instructors and volunteers. 
Here are some significant findings from this year’s report: 

  • The percentage of English language learners as a portion of all students has continued to rise steadily over the past eight to nine years.
  • Despite the use of social media and other technology, ProLiteracy continues to see "friend and/or family member" as the leading source of instructor and volunteer referrals.
  • The number of instructors and volunteers age 60 and over has increased by 50 percent. This may partially be attributed to a growing "baby boomer" population that is now available for volunteering. 
  • More than 26,000 learners advanced at least one level in a curriculum series last year—this is the leading achievement for learners. 
  • While 60 percent of programs still have student waiting lists, 2017-2018 marked the fourth year in a row that we have seen a reduction in the percentage of programs with waiting lists—from 68 percent of programs in 2014-15, to 66 percent in 2015-16, to 63 percent in 2016-17, and 60 percent in 2017-18. This is an encouraging trend. 
  • The majority of programs use TABE as a student assessment tool. This is followed closely by 38 percent of member programs that use assessment tools associated with published products, as well as 38 percent that use program-developed assessment tools. Many programs use more than one assessment tool.
  • While the majority of programs rely on volunteers for at least part of their instructional services, 78 percent of programs have at least one paid staff member running their programs—the average number of program staff members is five.
  • Approximately 85 percent of programs continue to use websites, and 81 percent of programs use social media to promote their organization, services, and raise awareness of adult literacy. These numbers continue to increase drastically each year. We encourage programs to use these tools and would like to achieve 100 percent usage for both.
  • The number of programs receiving United Way funding and the percentage of United Way funding as part of all funding continues to see unfortunate declines. 
  • Only 36 percent of member programs receive either federal and/or state funding to support their literacy efforts. ProLiteracy continues to advocate for its members to help ensure their chances of being eligible for this funding.

ProLiteracy uses the Annual Statistical Report to support our advocacy and awareness initiatives on behalf of all member organizations. We encourage our members and programs everywhere to use this data to: 

  • Assist with advocacy, fundraising, and public relations efforts
  • Identify trends in the field 
  • Compare their organization’s statistics to national averages

View the 2017-18 Annual Statistical Report here. Please share your thoughts about this year’s report in the comment section below.


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