How the ARCS Was Done

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NCSALL’s Adult Reading Components Study (ARCS) was the first large-scale attempt to describe the reading of students enrolled in adult basic education (ABE) and English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) using a battery of individually administered reading and language tests. From May 1998 to June 1999 nearly 1,000 adult learners were tested at over 30 learning centers in eight states. This report recounts in practical terms how Adult Reading Components Study was carried out. Organized chronologically, it covers the initial design of the test battery and questionnaire, piloting, site selection, interviewer training, preparation of materials, interaction with participating adult education centers, scheduling, interviewing, and the procedures used for scoring incoming data and entering it in the data base. The intended audience for this report includes individuals and groups who are considering carrying out similar research, such as US DOE agencies, university-based researchers, and state and local adult education officials.

Because this was the first study of its kind, it was inevitable that a number of unanticipated obstacles would have to be overcome in the field. In assembling this report we have tried to present a thorough and balanced picture of our difficulties as well as our successes. Whenever possible we offer the lessons of hindsight so that future researchers will be spared some of our missteps.

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