A Response to Simon: College & Career Readiness for All Students

Not long ago, Stephanie Simon reported for Politico.com on what she called a “standards rebellion” in America.  According to Simon, “The backlash stems, in part, from anger over the Common Core … But it’s more than that. It’s pushback against the idea that all students must be ready for college — even if they have no interest in going.”  From Simon’s discussion, it appears that on the one hand, some policy-makers want to empower all students for college and/or rewarding careers; yet, other policy-makers call this elitist and say that many students need vocational rather than academic preparation.  Ironically, American College Testing found that high school students “need comparable levels of reading and mathematics, regardless of their post–high school plans.” (ACT, 2013, p. 6).

Recent research on the difficulty of reading materials associated with access to individual careers sheds some light on the issue. Williamson and Baker (2013) examined a randomly chosen linear systematic sample of 1/6 of the Bright Outlook Occupations identified by the National Center for O*NET Development using data collected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Fully 28.8% of the occupations in the study required only a high school diploma for access.  However, all of the rest required additional education beyond high school.  Using the Lexile® Framework for Reading to measure text complexity, the study examined the difficulty of reading materials associated with individual occupations and found that the reading levels associated with different careers varied widely.  However, while typical high school texts have text complexity at around 1130L (i.e., 1130 Lexiles), almost 70% of the Bright Outlook Occupations had median text complexities above 1200L.  Nearly 29% of the occupations had text complexity above 1400L.  Perhaps the truth is that the postsecondary world offers something for an extremely diverse population of high school graduates.  There are indeed a few occupations that may be accessible with only a high school diploma and typical high school reading ability.  However, the large majority of occupations require substantially more reading ability than is represented by the texts that high school graduates were required to read as they were nearing the end of high school.

The Lexile® Framework for Reading evaluates reading ability and text complexity on the same developmental scale. Unlike other measurement systems, the Lexile Framework determines reading ability based on actual assessments, rather than generalized age or grade levels. Recognized as the standard for matching readers with texts, tens of millions of students worldwide receive a Lexile measure that helps them find targeted readings from the more than 100 million articles, books and websites that have been measured. Lexile measures connect learners of all ages with resources at the right level of challenge and monitors their progress toward state and national proficiency standards. More information about the Lexile® Framework can be found at www.Lexile.com.

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