Text Complexity Enters the Mainstream. Finally.

I was absolutely delighted to read Catherine Gewertz’s recent blog post, “New Research Expands Thinking on Text Complexity”.  Admittedly, my wife often reminds me that the subjects that interest me induce narcolepsy in others.  But as Gewertz points out, the esoteric subject of text complexity is now part of the national conversation.  The Common Cores State Standards has done a great deal to shine a light on this important topic and text complexity is one of the ten anchor standards within Common Core.  Consequently the conversation on text complexity has moved from the “wonks’ dinner tables to a dinner table near you”.

For a person who has devoted most of his professional life to this topic it is especially gratifying to finally see long overdue attention and recognition given to the importance of text complexity.  When Jack Stenner and I received the initial federal grant in 1984 to begin research around our vision of placing readers and texts on the same scale there were very few researchers focused on this topic.  Fortunately, over a decade of research and support from federal grants we were able to create and develop The Lexile Framework for Reading, a Framework that is now utilized by educators, administrators, and families all over the world.  As vitally important as the need to measure text complexity was the imperative that we build a psychometric model which would allow for the measurement of reading ability on the same scale.  Today, in addition to the millions of articles and thousands of books that have been measured, millions of students get a Lexile reading measure from one of the over 50 assessments that report Lexile reader measures.  For a more thorough overview of our work in this area, please see our recent paper, “Not So Common”.

While we began this research journey began in the early 1980s, we are excited about the currently ongoing research and the advancements that we are continuing to make. We are also doing our part to reach every dinner table by making all of our resources and tools freely available and parent friendly.  For example, over 150,000 educators have used our Lexile Analyzer to measure the text complexity of millions of articles and books.  And, each day thousands of educators, parents, and students use our Find A Book application to build personalized (based on interest and reading level) reading lists and connect to their closest public library.  With more attention being given to this important topic, it’s our hope that educators around the world will be able to utilize the Lexile Framework to ensure that every student is successfully reading grade level material and that every student graduates ready for the rigors of the post-secondary world.

Introducing the New Lexile Map!

We are proud to announce that the new Lexile® Map is available for download on Lexile.com. Over the past months, we’ve met with     educators, parents, and state leaders from across the nation to help guide development of the new Lexile Map. The new Lexile Map underwent many changes for improved classroom and home use.

New Content, New Design

MetaMetrics revised the map with several goals in mind. These goals included 1) supporting the Lexile Framework for Reading   alignment with the Common Core, 2) incorporating greater diversity in authors and titles, 3) illustrating the developmental nature of the Lexile Framework for Reading to general audiences, and 4) enhancing the visual appeal of the map. A team was assembled to develop a map that met these goals.

Dr. Kim Bowen, from our Research & Development Department, spearheaded the effort to find new titles for the map. With the goals in mind and the feedback received from a forum with our State Education Agencies partners, Kim diligently searched the database for new titles for the map. Titles that serve as Common Core State Standards Text Exemplars were added to the map, along with titles written by multicultural authors.  Primary source documents were added, as were more award-winning texts. The team also ensured that more contemporary texts were intermingled with canonical works.

Design, language, and messaging were also all updated. We worked with a talented design team, Fisher Creative, Inc., to provide a new look and feel to the map. The design team provided the map with a comprehensive layout, an energetic and engaging color scheme, and fresh images.  We retained the vertical orientation to the scale’s developmental growth foundation.  Language regarding text types, Literary and Informational, were added to be consistent with terms used in the Common Core State Standards. Messaging was provided describing how the map works and how you can use it.

Additional Printing Options

A popular request we heard from the field was the need for an 8 ½ x 11 printing option for the map. We are happy to report that now the map is available in an 8 ½ x 11 printing format, in both full color and grayscale. We still offer the 11 x 17 printing option since many users prefer printing that size to post in the classroom. On the 11×17 version, you will notice that fewer titles and only three benchmarks appear. These changes ensure the map is inviting and more reader-friendly.

Interested in how you can use the Lexile map in the classroom and at home? Stay tuned for an upcoming blog post that offers ideas and suggestions for the many ways you can use the map.

Special thanks to dapc photography for photographing the map and Lowe’s Grove for offering a classroom setting for the Lexile map photos!

An Innovative Use of the Lexile and Quantile Frameworks

At the dawn of the 21st century, North Carolina maintained a respected testing program that consisted of end-of-grade (EOG) tests in reading and mathematics for grades 3-8 and end-of-course (EOC) tests in selected high school courses.  The EOG tests were vertically linked on a developmental scale to facilitate growth calculations for the state’s accountability program in grades 3-8.  The EOC tests were scaled independently, each with its own unique scale.

After years of implementing an annual accountability program based on year-to-year gains, the state had accumulated a substantial longitudinal data base.  Consequently, the state considered incorporating a longer-term focus on growth into its accountability reform efforts.  To support that initiative, research was conducted to explore the possibility of describing growth in reading and mathematics throughout the elementary, middle and high school years, utilizing available measures in ways they had not been used before.

In a study conducted by MetaMetrics and the NC DPI (2011), a combination of psychometrics and statistical modeling were employed to examine the EOG and EOC data.  Specifically, EOG and EOC test scores were strategically expressed on common scales (The Lexile Framework for Reading and The Quantile Framework for Mathematics) and the resulting measures were analyzed with a multilevel growth model.  The goal was to test the feasibility of estimating statewide average growth curves across grades 3-11 using existing measures while satisfying six pre-specified criteria for extending the developmental trend beyond the grade 3-8 time frame.

The results confirmed that the analysis of growth can be facilitated by the use of both EOG and EOC scores when they are linked to the Lexile and Quantile scales.  The Lexile and Quantile measures derived from EOC test scores behaved developmentally in the sense that:  a) they identified the higher levels of reading comprehension and mathematics understanding that resulted from additional instruction and study; and b)  this was predictably reflected in changes observed in the average growth curve.  This finding provides the basis for a practical strategy for states who may wish to explore a long-term approach to growth by combining measures from developmental and non-developmental tests in their accountability program(s).  This approach could be used to set long-term developmental growth standards for a state based on longitudinal panel data, rather than the usual practice of setting only year-to-year growth standards based on non-developmental (e.g., status projection) or short-term growth (e.g., gain score) formulations.

MetaMetrics is an educational measurement organization. Our renowned psychometric team develops scientific measures of student achievement that link assessment with targeted instruction to improve learning.