Alberta Reading Benchmarks

What is the project about?

Alberta Reading Benchmarks (ARB) is a multiphase adult literacy project funded by Alberta Enterprise and Advanced Education. It responds to some of the key priority actions of the Government of Alberta’s plan for foundational learning called Living Literacy: A Literacy Framework for Alberta’s Next Generation Economy.

ARB_logo 2The ARB project was established in 2010 to create a set of comprehensive adult literacy reading benchmarks that are accompanied by implementation guides and teaching resources. The ARB is a resource for learners and practitioners to develop learning plans for reading that help learners achieve their reading goals.

This project established seven levels of reading benchmarks for adult literacy, upgrading, and essential skill building. These levels provide a common language for learners and practitioners to discuss learning in reading.

A pilot was conducted from September 2012 to June 2013 to determine how practical the benchmarks are in the field of adult literacy. The ARB pilot identified seven organizations with programs ranging from community literacy, family literacy, Aboriginal education, and adult basic education. Adult literacy practitioners from these sites were given ARB resources to test how they might implement and integrate the benchmarks in their programs. A final report on the implementation phase was provided at the end of the pilot. An external evaluation of the project was conducted to assess the ARB pilot’s effectiveness. The evaluators examined the pilot’s efficiency in achieving its objectives, its success factors and limitations, along with the project’s key results. They also provided recommendations for the training and implementation phase. An important finding from the evaluation was that the ARB are more useable in certain literacy programs than others. A summary of the pilot evaluation is now available.

Using the information gathered from both the external evaluation and pilot project, we developed training resources for practitioners who want to use the benchmarks in their programs.

In 2014 we developed training resources on the Alberta Reading Benchmarks website that will help practitioners to incorporate ARB into their teaching strategies and learn how to align reading material to the benchmark levels.  Our training is relevant to programs that were compatible in the pilot phase such as volunteer tutor programs and Adult Basic Education classes but it is also useful to practitioners who are new to the ARB.

Read Forward, an adult reading assessment resource is aligned to the Alberta Reading Benchmarks. The ARB describes what readers know and can do at successive levels as they develop and expand their reading capacity. The Read Forward reading skills levels are the same levels developed for the ARB which in turn are loosely referenced to the first three levels of IALS and informed by the IALS theoretical framework. Read Forward and the ARB are compatible measures for reading skills and we encourage you to consider using them together. Use Read Forward to assess reading skills. Then access the tools on the ARB website to support reading instruction for the unique set of reading skills at each Read Forward level.

What is the goal?

The project focuses on identifying and developing adult learners’ reading skill levels. The ARB’s goal is to develop useful resources and materials that can be used in reading instructions for practitioners and instructors practising in the adult literacy field.

These benchmarks give learners and practitioners in literacy programs across Alberta:

  • meaningful information about reading skill levels,
  • a way of understanding the progress of learner’s own reading skill development,
  • the potential to assist learners to transition between programs more efficiently, and
  • a comparison for how their skill level corresponds to a standardized set of levels.

What can this project contribute to the adult literacy and essential skills field?

Corrie Rhyasen-Erdman, a project facilitator, believes that the “ARB has the potential to provide a common language to engage learners about their own learning and reading skills. It is empowering for learners to have a common language to help them monitor their own learning.”