Transforming the lives of low-literate adults



Frequently Asked Questions

  • The Adult Literacy XPRIZE is a two-stage competition to develop and deploy mobile learning technologies to improve the literacy skills of adult learners. In the Stage 1, the $6-million Teams Competition, teams from around the world developed literacy apps designed for adults reading at or below the equivalent of a third-grade level. In Stage 2, the Communities Competition, communities from around the United States will compete for a $1-million prize by recruiting adults to download and use the winning apps from the Teams Competition.

  • There are approximately 36 million adults in the U.S.—and 780 million globally—who lack basic literacy. Adult literacy is crucial for healthy families, communities, the economy, and engaged citizens, as well as to the very future of our society—our children.

  • Only 2 million of the 36 million adults in need are served by existing adult literacy programs in the U.S. These programs are generally place-based programs that provide direct, in-person services in a classroom, in small groups, or in one-on-one settings. These programs are relatively small in size and scope, are generally underfunded, are not accessible to all, and are unable to scale to meet the high level of need.

  • The winning team will develop an app resulting in the greatest learning gains in English literacy among both native speakers and English language learners as measured by a pre- and post-test administered one year apart.

  • The grand prize winner of the Teams Competition will be awarded $3-million for developing an app that produces the greatest learning gains among adults who originally test at or below the equivalent of a third-grade reading level. Two achievement prizes of $1-million each will be awarded to the team or teams that produce the greatest learning gains among each of the two learner demographics. Up to five Finalists will share a $500,000 prize purse to be awarded in June 2018. In addition, teams who meet a minimum performance threshold in the field test of the Adult Literacy XPRIZE and qualify to have their apps distributed during the Communities Competition will share a $500,000 Communities Deployment Participation Incentive.

  • The Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPRIZE launched on June 8, 2015. Winners of the Teams Competition, will be selected in December 2018, and announced the following March. The Communities Competition, which launches June of 2018, will conclude in September of 2019.

  • Registration for the Teams Stage of the Adult Literacy XPRIZE closed in December 2015. You may still register to compete in the Communities Competition, which will launch June 21, 2018. To stay informed of competition information, create a profile at and indicate you are interested in forming a team for the Adult Literacy XPRIZE.

  • Sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on ways to get involved in this and other XPRIZE competitions.

  • In May 2017, the competition’s judges selected 8 semifinalist teams based on evaluations of the teams’ apps, product roadmaps, evidence in support of their solutions’ efficacy, and field data those teams had collected. To measure the effectiveness of these semifinalist teams’ apps, XPRIZE is conducting a large-scale trial with 7,000 adult learners in three major US metropolitan areas—Los Angeles, Dallas, and Philadelphia. In this field test, which launched July 2017 and will conclude October 2018, low-literacy adults—those who test at or below the equivalent of a 3rd -grade reading level on a generally accepted standardized literacy assessment at the start of the trial—will be given one of the available mobile learning applications to use on their own. After one year, a portion of these adult learners will be invited to take the same standardized assessment again to measure their learning gains.

  • During the field testing phase of the competition, solutions will be provided to low-literate adult learners (both native English speakers and non-native English language speakers) who live within three geographic areas in the U.S. and read at or below the equivalent of a third-grade reading level. Teams’ apps, however, work for a broad range of learner demographics and abilities and are available internationally through Google Play.

  • XPRIZE is using a generally accepted adult literacy assessment. To avoid having teams develop apps that “teach to the test,” we are not divulging the name of the assessment.

  • No. The Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPRIZE is designed to utilize mobile smart devices that people already own.

  • Once Teams Stage concludes, the winning apps will be deployed through the Communities Competition across the United States. Communities will compete to recruit the greatest number of participants to download and use the qualifying mobile applications developed during the Teams Competition.

  • During the Communities Competition, participating teams’ apps will be available for free to download and use during a deployment phase and for one year following the close of the competition by all users who downloaded the apps as part of the Communities Competition. Otherwise, the technologies developed during the Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPRIZE belong to the teams that develop them. The goal of the prize is for those teams to offer their technologies on the open market, ultimately building a robust educational technology marketplace for adults.

  • This competition will revolutionize adult literacy learning in the U.S.—a vitally important goal if our society is to reach its full potential. The solutions will help overcome barriers to literacy learning by providing a new generation of adult learning tools that are highly engaging, relevant, scalable, supportive, and accessible to them.

  • The two competitions are separate competitions. The Adult Literacy XPRIZE is the second prize launched in XPRIZE’s Learning and Human Potential Domain. Together, these prizes envision a future with unprecedented, individually-tailored opportunities for lifelong learning, literacy, autonomy, and career readiness, as well as widespread tools for uplifting entire populations from the vicious cycle of poverty. We aim to empower a universally-educated population, with equal access to information and knowledge, regardless of age, gender, race, nationality, or socio-economic status.