Educational Institutions

Literacy Action, Inc.

aka Literacy Action, Inc.

Atlanta, GA


Literacy Action builds better futures for undereducated adults by teaching literacy, life, and work skills that empower them to reach their highest potential.

Ruling Year


Executive Director

Kerry McArdle

Main Address

231 Peachtree Street, NE, Suite M-100 - Select One -

Atlanta, GA 30303 USA


literacy, basic skills, adult education, employment services, job readiness, GED diploma,, high school drop out, family literacy, work force literacy, work force development, computer literacy, digital divide





Cause Area (NTEE Code)

Remedial Reading, Reading Encouragement (B92)

Adult, Continuing Education (B60)

Employment, Job Related N.E.C. (J99)

IRS Filing Requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Social Media

Programs + Results

What we aim to solve New!

In Georgia, an estimated one in six adults ages 19 to 65 has low literacy skills, defined as a reading level equivalent to the fifth grade or lower. The causes of low literacy are inter-related and often originate early in life. Growing up in a household struggling with poverty creates an environment which, often unintentionally, deemphasizes reading and formal education as families focus instead on the challenges of securing basic needs like food and shelter. As with poverty, there is an intergenerational cycle of low literacy that is difficult to break. Research has found that children whose parents have low literacy levels have a 72 percent chance of reading behind grade level themselves.

The effects of low literacy on an individual and society as a whole are staggering. According to a 2017 study by Deloitte, it is estimated that low literate adults strain Georgia's economy by $1.26B a year in social services costs and lost tax revenue. Alarmingly, an estimated 66 percent of stud

Our programs

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Adult Basic Education

Workforce Literacy

Digital Literacy

Family Literacy

English for Speakers of Other Languages

Where we workNew!

Charting Impact

Five powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What is the organization aiming to accomplish?

What are the organization's key strategies for making this happen?

What are the organization's capabilities for doing this?

How will they know if they are making progress?

What have and haven't they accomplished so far?

Literacy Action's vision is to break the intergenerational cycle of low-literacy and poverty that adult students face by providing quality instruction and removing key barriers to employment or academic advancement through literacy. The organization pursues this vision through a series of adult learning programs and support services.

For nearly 50 years, Literacy Action has been a grassroots driver of free adult learning services providing various levels of educational instruction to advance adults towards employment, citizenship, better wages and post-secondary education. Founded in 1968 by volunteers at the Central Presbyterian Church in downtown Atlanta, Literacy Action is now the largest nonprofit provider of free adult basic education in Georgia, with a staff of 28 and 21 locations around the metro-Atlanta area. Literacy Action employs teams of professional adult-education teachers and volunteers to provide a full continuum of courses needed by low-income, undereducated adults. Students range in age from 16 to 86 and hail from 13 Atlanta-area counties and 37 countries. Many students manage both jobs and children while attending classes.

Adult learners are often referred to Literacy Action by a local housing authority or one of the organization's community partners such as Westside Works. During the enrollment process, students undergo an initial assessment to determine what level and types of classes would be most suitable. In the classroom, teachers focus on building a community of learners and encouraging peer-to-peer collaboration. Not only has research found that adults learn better in a team setting, but building a cohort of learners also helps keep the students accountable to one another. Any embarrassment or stigma the adult learner may feel quickly dissipates as they work side-by-side with adults at their same educational level.

Literacy Action's classes remain free to ensure there are as few barriers as possible to adult learners' participation. As such, approximately 85 percent of Literacy Action's budget is supported by the community's philanthropy. The philanthropic investor realizes a gift to Literacy Action makes good financial sense. In 2015 alone, Literacy Action had a $37.9 million impact through increased employment, lowered incarceration, growth in post-secondary education enrollment, reduced healthcare costs, and amplified economic mobility.

Literacy Action expands its outreach by partnering with 20 sites throughout the Metro Atlanta region, including area libraries and places of worship, to bring education where education is needed. In the last year, Literacy Action established a partnership with Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Decatur to create a satellite campus. Located strategically in a safe, welcoming environment, this location is key to reaching refugees seeking ESOL courses. Literacy Action has access to the church's six classrooms and a common area for a students' study hall during the week to teach classes.

Literacy Action is dedicated to measuring the positive change it creates in adults' lives through education. The organization measures grade level growth, called a “gain" in adult education, through an instrument called the Test of Adult Basic Education, or TABE; students in ESOL classes take a similar exam called Best Literacy. Students take the TABE at the beginning of a semester and again each time they complete 40 hours of instruction. The speed at which a student achieves a gain depends on many individual factors, including the level at which they began. In general, adult learners who begin at Literacy Action at a second to fourth grade level achieve a gain over about nine to 12 months; students at the fifth-grade level or higher tend to progress faster, achieving up to one and a half gains in nine months. In FY17, 67 percent of Literacy Action's students made at least one academic gain during the year.

Growth in adult learners' self-confidence is nearly as important as their academic progress. Literacy Action administers self-efficacy surveys at the end of each semester to measure students' belief in their ability to use the skills they've learned in the classroom. For instance, recent self-efficacy surveys conducted at the end of the Spring 2017 semester found that 69 percent of respondents feel confident in their reading skills. Similarly, the surveys found that 84 percent feel confident speaking and working with others; 66 percent are confident they can find what they're looking for on the internet; and 51 percent are confident they can help their children with their math homework.

Adult learners face a variety of obstacles to attending classes and completing their coursework. Literacy Action recognizes that overcoming these obstacles and completing a semester of instruction is an achievement in and of itself. As such, the organization values and tracks persistence among its students. In FY17, 64 percent of students completed a pre-and post- test at the beginning and end of a semester.

At the end of each semester, students are given the opportunity to evaluate their instructors and their overall classroom experience, which enables Literacy Action to ensure its courses are meeting adult learners' needs. Within Spring 2017 evaluations, 95 percent of classroom survey respondents felt their teacher explained things in a way they could understand; 92 percent felt the work and materials presented in class helped them learn new skills; and 94 percent of students felt their instructors treated them with respect.

Literacy Action continues to grow, as evidenced by a 218 percent increase in participants in just the last three years alone. Its new, more accessible location, combined with aggressive outreach and collaborative partnerships, have positioned Literacy Action to increase its annual participation by an estimated 24 percent in FY18. The philanthropic community can rest assured that Literacy Action is maintaining solid oversight of its growing nonprofit. So much so, in 2017, the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta named Literacy Action as a recipient of the prestigious Managing for Excellence Award using the key factors of community impact, board and staff engagement, fiscal health, investment in the organization's infrastructure, thoughtful evaluation practices, and a commitment to continuous improvement.

External Reviews


Literacy Action, Inc.

Fiscal year: Jul 01 - Jun 30

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  • Forms 990 for 2017, 2016 and 2015
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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

Need more info?

FREE: Gain immediate access to the following:

  • Address, phone, website and contact information
  • Forms 990 for 2017, 2016 and 2015
A Pro report is also available for this organization for $125.
Click here to see what's included.

Board Leadership Practices

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section, which enables organizations and donors to transparently share information about essential board leadership practices.

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization


Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations?



Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year?



Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year?



Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership?



Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years?


Organizational Demographics

In order to support nonprofits and gain valuable insight for the sector, GuideStar worked with D5—a five-year initiative to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in philanthropy—in creating a questionnaire. This section is a voluntary questionnaire that empowers organizations to share information on the demographics of who works in and leads organizations. To protect the identity of individuals, we do not display sexual orientation or disability information for organizations with fewer than 15 staff. Any values displayed in this section are percentages of the total number of individuals in each category (e.g. 20% of all Board members for X organization are female).

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization


Race & Ethnicity

Sexual Orientation

This organization reports that it does not collect this information.


This organization reports that it does not collect this information.

Diversity Strategies

We track retention of staff, board, and volunteers across demographic categories
We track income levels of staff, senior staff, and board across demographic categories
We track the age of staff, senior staff, and board
We track the diversity of vendors (e.g., consultants, professional service firms)
We have a diversity committee in place
We have a diversity manager in place
We have a diversity plan
We use other methods to support diversity