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.

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