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Disaggregate: Basic skills level


An individual’s level of basic skills proficiency

Why it matters

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) considers an individual to be “basic skills deficient” if they are “unable to compute or solve problems, or read, write, or speak English, at a level necessary to function on the job, in the individual’s family, or in society.” As discussed in Outcomes and Milestones section of this report, competencies such as math and reading proficiency, communication skills, higher-order thinking skills, and digital skills are important for workforce readiness and success. English proficiency is also associated with greater academic achievement and improved workforce outcomes, as discussed under the English learner disaggregate.

What to know about measurement

Basic skills deficiency is used as an eligibility criterion for some federal workforce development programs, including Job Corps and YouthBuild. Federal regulations allow states to adapt the federal definition of “basic skills deficient,” as long as the modified definitions retain core components of the federal definition. Federal law also allows states to determine how to measure basic skills level, and assessment methods vary across states. For example, Washington State exclusively uses the Comprehensive Adult Student Assessment System (CASAS) tests to determine basic skills deficiency, whereas South Dakota permits the use of ACCUPLACER®, ACT® WorkKeys® Curriculum™ Placement Quiz, WorkKeys Assessments, TABE™, National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC), or Best Plus™ and Best Literacy™ assessments.

Source frameworks

This disaggregate is required for WIOA reporting. It did not appear in any other source frameworks reviewed for this report.


The framework's recommendations are based on syntheses of existing research. Please see the framework report for a list of works cited.

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