NCES has been assessing adult literacy since 1985. Until PIAAC, NCES conducted both national assessments of adult literacy as well as international assessments of adult literacy. The national assessments consisted of the 1992 National Adult Literacy Survey (NALS) and the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL). The international assessments consisted of the 1994 International Adult Literacy Study (IALS) and ALL.
Compared with NAAL, ALL's purpose and target population were slightly different. ALL focused on providing international benchmarks while NAAL provided state-level estimates of adult literacy for interested states in order to furnish state/national benchmarks. ALL surveyed adults aged 16-65 in order to focus on the active labor force; NAAL surveyed all adults 16 year old and older.
ALL and NAAL also covered somewhat different domains, although both addressed prose and document literacy.1 NAAL covered prose and document literacy and quantitative literacy, while areas covered in ALL included prose and document literacy, numeracy, and problem solving/analytical reasoning. The numeracy domain in ALL addressed a broader range of mathematical application skills than NAAL's quantitative literacy domain. Additional ALL background items examined familiarity with information and communication technologies and health and well-being of respondents.
Both ALL and NAAL linked to earlier studies: NAAL linked with the 1992 National Adult Literacy Survey (NALS), and ALL linked with the 1994 International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS).
Compared with PIAAC, ALL's purpose and target population are virtually identical; however, its domains are not. PIAAC expanded on ALL's (and IAL's) cognitive frameworks and has added an assessment of problem solving via computer, which was not a component of the previous studies. In addition, ALL differs from PIAAC operationally in a variety of ways because PIAAC capitalized on the experiences of IALS and ALL and modified their approach to survey design and sampling, measurement, data collection procedures, data processing, and weighting and estimation. The most significant difference between ALL and PIAAC, however, is that PIAAC is administered on laptop computers, and is designed to be a computer-adaptive assessment so respondents will receive groups of items targeted to their performance levels, whereas ALL was completely a "paper-and-pencil" assessment.
1 Frameworks for prose and document literacy for the NAAL and ALL are the same; actual items for the two assessments differ.