The states in the demonstration project were Illinois, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Nevada, and South Carolina. Between 2002 and 2004, for each of those states the project assembled information on:

the National Adult Literacy Survey to determine the literacy levels of the population,
graduate-admission and licensure tests to establish the performance of the college educated, and
general intellectual skills tests (WorkKeys at the two-year colleges and the Collegiate Learning Assessment at the four-year colleges) administered to a sample of students at public and private two- and four-year institutions.

The learning profiles that resulted gave an idea of each state's strengths and challenges it faces with regard to collegiate learning.1

1 Since the sample sizes were small, it's important to look at the overall pattern of results rather than the individual measures.


Kentucky's recent substantial investments in both K–12 and postsecondary education have been a good public-policy response to its low literacy levels.

Its investments in community and technical colleges have paid off both in the form of higher-than-average proportions of graduates taking and passing licensing exams and in the high-level performance of those students on the WorkKeys exams, especially in the writing section.

But the state is less competitive when it comes to the proportion of its graduates taking and performing competitively on graduate-admission exams.

Figure 1.
Kentucky Learning Measures

Source for Figures and Tables: Margaret A. Miller and Peter T. Ewell, Measuring Up on College-Level Learning (San Jose, CA: The National Center For Public Policy And Higher Education, 2005).


Oklahoma's recent activity in improving the quality of its higher education system is a response to the substantial challenges it faces in its K–12 system and in its low levels of college graduation. The disappointing literacy levels of its residents reflect those challenges.

Oklahoma's higher-education orientation toward workforce preparation is seen in the high number of students who take and do well on licensure exams, as compared to students' below-average performance on graduate admissions tests.

Written communication skills constitute a particular challenge for the state in both its two- and four-year colleges.

Figure 2.
Oklahoma Learning Measures

Learning profiles for Illinois, Nevada, and South Carolina are available at:


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