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Extending the Ladder: From CASAS to Work Keys Assessments

Extending the Ladder

All across America people are increasingly aware that staying productive and competitive in the workplace requires staying current, and staying current requires continuous investments in skills development. No longer is this the concern only of those in the education and training sectors, employer and employees are reaching this conclusion as well.

Extending the Ladder focuses on the nation’s investments in skill development. It shows how assessment systems from two of our country’s premier testing organizations – CASAS and ACT– can be linked to guide individuals' education and training as they progress from basic literacy skills to the level of advanced skills required to succeed in an increasingly complex economy.

CASAS Workforce Learning Systems provides high quality, valuable assessment of the basic skills needed in the workplace. ACT’s Work Keys system provides high quality, valuable assessments of more advanced skills required for employees to be productive in the workplace. Given these different levels, these two assessment systems complement each other to form a comprehensive assessment system.

Both CASAS Workforce Learning Systems and ACT’s Work Keys system measure basic and more advanced skills needed for effective participation in the workforce and workplace.

There is enough difference in the range of skills covered by the Workforce Learning Systems and Work Keys system to warrant joining the two together in a basic skills continuum. This continuum provides more useful information over a greater range of skill levels than is available from either system alone.

The Workforce Learning Systems covers skills that are more basic, and provides more information on the skills of individuals functioning at the lower end of the skills continuum.

The Work Keys system covers skills that are more advanced and provides more information on the skills of individual functioning at the higher end of the skills continuum.

The Workforce Learning Systems and Work Keys system complement each other and can be used together to provide a smooth, progressive, and complete skills continuum.

The study Extending the Ladder: From CASAS to Work Keys Assessments looked at the extent to which a score obtained using the CASAS ECS Workforce Learning Appraisal translates to a similar score obtained using the ACT Work Keys. The sample included data from 27 sites across eight states and comprised 494 learners enrolled in workforce literacy programs. Each examinee took both the ECS 130 Reading and the Work Keys Reading for Information assessment or the ECS 130 Math and the Work Keys Applied Mathematics assessment, with a subset of the students tested with all four reading and math instruments. The report includes expectancy tables showing what level a person obtaining a particular score using the Workforce Learning System might expect to receive on the Work Keys scale in reading and mathematics.

The research shows that as a learner’s scores on the CASAS reading and mathematics scales increased, the ACT Work Keys Level tended to increase as well. The Pearson correlation coefficient between the two measures was .71 for reading and .70 for mathematics, indicating a strong relationship between them.

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