I just heard of a school where the teachers are mandating that students read within a certain Lexile score. Is this what the Common Core State Standards require?
A resounding NO.
Please refer to the English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects, Appendix A:
Download here: http://corestandards.org/assets/Appendix_A.pdf
There is a lengthy discussion of the importance of text complexity; then there is a lengthy discussion of the complexity of requiring text complexity and measuring text complexity. Under “The Standards’ Approach to Text Complexity” (p. 4), the standards propose a “Three-Part Model for Measuring Text Complexity.”
- The qualitative dimension refers to aspects best evaluated by a careful human reader, such as levels of meaning or purpose, structure, language conventions and clarity and knowledge demands.
- The quantitative dimension is generally measured by the Lexile or similar measures.
- Reader and Task considerations, which takes into account how the text will be used. Here’s an important quote: “Such assessments are best made by teachers employing their professional judgment, experience, and knowledge of their students and the subject.”
These are all to be equally weighted in deciding on using a text. Equal weight! The Common Core does NOT preference Lexile to the exclusion of anything else. It is merely one-third of the consideration.
Further, in the case of novels or literature especially, the Lexile can be the last thing to consider. As Appendix A notes (p. 8), “For example, as illustrated in example 2 below, some widely used quantitative measures, including the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level test and the Lexile Framework for Reading, rate the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Grapes of Wrath as appropriate for grades 2-3. This counterintuitive result emerges because works such as Grapes often express complex ideas in relatively commonplace language (familiar words and simple syntax), especially in the form of dialogue that mimics everyday speech.”
In other words, the “reading level” of a book says little about the appropriateness of the content of the book for a certain reader, certain grade levels or certain classroom tasks. It is but one of the three measures a teacher is required to consider.
The Appendix goes on to say (emphasis added), “Until widely available quantitative tools can better account for factors recognized as making such texts challenging, including multiple levels of meaning and mature themes, PREFERENCE SHOULD LIKELY BE GIVEN TO QUALITATIVE MEASURES OF TEXT COMPLEXITY when evaluating narrative fiction intended for students in grades 6 and above.”
Common sense says that qualitative should be considered at any grade level, as the example of Grapes of Wrath points out.
In other words, if you, as a professional school librarian, teacher, counselor or principal recommend a book you feel is appropriate, based on your knowledge of the quantitative, qualitative and reader/task considerations, then your opinion should hold sway over a simple Lexile level.
If you need a text to go over with teachers or administrators, the Appendix A discussion is thorough and covers the complexities of choosing text. Download here: http://corestandards.org/assets/Appendix_A.pdf