New Lexile Resource: The Lexile Career Database

We’d like to share our newest Lexile resource, The Lexile® Career Database. The Lexile Career Database is a new tool to help identify the reading ability necessary for career preparedness. It contains Lexile® measures for over 250 careers (to date) as well as important descriptive information for each career. The database is a result of years of research examining the text complexity of a variety of reading materials in various domains of the post-secondary experience.

The Lexile Career Database uses a common scale for readiness across all careers and is an excellent new resource to address the emerging emphasis on career readiness. With The Lexile Career Database, educators and students can identify the reading ability needed for a desired career and use this information to inform goal setting. It is the only metric available to compare and describe reading demands of careers.

The careers featured within The Lexile Career Database have been identified as Bright Outlook Occupations by O*NET, the premier online career search database designed for the U.S. Department of Labor. Bright Outlook Occupations are careers that are expected to grow and/or emerge in the next few years and offer large numbers of new job openings.

The Lexile Career Database is now available for integration into Lexile partner products and services. To learn more about licensing the Lexile Career Database click here or view our recent webinar The Lexile Career Database: Discover the Reading Demands of Prospective Occupations.

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Unpacking the Complexity Within the Text Complexity Measure

By Malbert Smith III, Ph.D. and Matt Copeland

With the recent release of Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman, there is renewed interest in her classic, To Kill a Mockingbird. In fact, Brody and Maloney (Wall Street Journal, July 14, 2015) argue that teachers need to rethink how they teach To Kill a Mockingbird in light of the themes in Go Set a Watchman. The timing of this release also corresponds to the five year anniversary of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Regardless of where you land on the merits of the CCSS, it has brought a renewed instructional emphasis on the concepts of text complexity and close reading.

With the next generation of standards’ emphasis on increasing the diet of non-fiction and the number and quality of complex texts that are taught, there was concern among some teachers that many of our canonical texts (particularly fiction) taught in middle and high school did not appear to satisfy the text complexity requirement. For example, when one examines the quantitative leg of the text complexity triangle, To Kill a Mockingbird has a measure of 790L which corresponds to the recommended grade level of 4 to 5 in Appendix A of CCSS. However, when one examines the qualitative and reader/task legs of the triangle, the authors of the CCSS in Appendix B adjust the recommended level to grades 9-10 where this novel is typically taught.

Shanahan and Duffett (2013) reported that, like Mockingbird, seven of the ten most popular books taught in middle school and five of the top ten books taught in high school are not challenging enough on the quantitative index. Against this backdrop ELA teachers in middle and high school have been asking whether these classic books can satisfy the requirements of close reading of complex text. And the answer is that these books are outstanding not only on the quality and reader/task dimensions but also along the dimension of quantitative measures of text complexity. In fact, when we dig a little deeper into these individual works, we often find that there is sufficient complexity—even based upon the quantitative index alone—to warrant their inclusion in our curricula.

But beyond the consideration of what works we teach, another important consideration are the instructional practices that we use to deliver that learning to students. Certainly, close reading and the reader and task considerations within the CCSS text complexity model are essential; they provide the framework for thinking through the kinds of instructional scaffolding we might provide to help students be successful. As classrooms around the country prepare to begin another school year anew, helping practitioners to examine the complexity of a text and even the finer grain details of the quantitative index, might be a rich resource for more data-driven instructional planning.

To this end, MetaMetrics is unveiling the beginnings of a new line of research: chapter-by-chapter graphs (such as the one shown below for Mockingbird [Figure 1]) of the Lexile measures of chapters within an individual work. Our belief is that equipped with this type of information instructional leaders can make decisions on how best to focus their instruction time and thereby have an even more profound positive impact on student learning.

Figure 1. Lexile measures by chapter for To Kill a Mockingbird.  Fig1

As one can see in Figure 1, while the overall text complexity measure of Mockingbird is 790L within the entire book, there is substantial variation among the individual chapters of the novel. In fact, of the novel’s 31 chapters, 18 chapters fall above the entire work’s Lexile measure of 790L, while only 13 chapters fall below the 790L mark. And while only one chapter (Chapter 20—part of the courtroom scene) falls within the Grades 9-10 text complexity band, five more chapters come within 100L of that range. From this graph, we believe it is easy to see that there are a number of opportunities to present sufficiently complex text to students and to provide the close reading opportunities and instructional scaffolding our students may need.

Interestingly, when we have asked ELA teachers of Mockingbird to predict which specific chapters of the novel might be more complex than others, they typically predict the same ones that the quantitative measures identify. This would seem to support the notion that many practicing classroom teachers are quite adept at selecting texts that provide sufficient complexity for their students’ learning and understand—even intuitively—where the complexity resides. However, making these realities more concrete in our minds offers us a number of opportunities to reflect upon our instruction.

As an extension of this work, we have gone a step farther and also begun to examine each paragraph within a particular chapter. Just as we see variation among the Lexile measures of individual chapters, we see even more variation among the paragraphs within a chapter. For example, when we examined the complexity within Chapter 13 of Mockingbird [Figure 2], it became clear to us that although the overall measure of this chapter is 1020L—just below the text complexity grade band range for Grades 9-10—there does exist a sequence of about 20 paragraphs that overwhelmingly do fall in the text complexity grade band and, in fact, even exceed that grade band in one instance. The opportunities to engage students in close reading of text at the appropriate level within these 20 paragraphs seem rich on the surface. An examination of the content of those paragraphs—the scene where the young narrator of the novel, Scout, comments on the arrival of her Aunt Alexandra, the relationship Alexandra maintains with her brother, Atticus, and her staunch belief in the importance of family and social traditions—confirms the importance of the passage to the novel as a whole. And, perhaps, becomes even more important now given the narrative presented in Go Set a Watchman.

 Figure 2. Lexile measures by paragraph for Chapter 13 of To Kill a Mockingbird. fig2

As a former high school ELA teacher, I (Matt) now see how examining and unpacking the empirical text complexity measure of books could have helped me greatly in planning for instruction. For example, I see more clearly now where the opportunities for close reading exist within the novel. I would rethink the reading schedule I typically hand to students at the beginning of the unit to highlight these “peaks” of complexity within the work and spend more time focusing my efforts on providing my students—particularly my struggling readers—the instructional scaffolding they need in order to be successful with these chapters. The possibilities seem endless.

If we desire to meet the ideals embodied in the next generation of standards, educators need time, tools, and resources. Even within the text complexity model itself, such opportunities do exist. Our challenge is to harness these opportunities, embrace them, and empower changes to our curricula and—even more importantly—to our instructional practice.

As we think about the needs of our students and re-think some of our curricula and instruction, Scout’s wisdom and insight from the end of To Kill a Mockingbird, when she finally stands upon Boo Radley’s front porch, seem all that much more relevant: “I had never seen our neighborhood from this angle.”

For more information and to view the collection of available Lexile by Chapter Guides, please visit lexile.com/lexile-by-chapter/.

References

Brody, L.  & Maloney, J. (2014, July 14). Teachers’ new homework: a ‘Watchman’ Plan. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http://www.wsj.com/articles/teachers-new-homework-a-watchman-plan-1436917909

Lee, H. (2015). To Kill a Mockingbird. New York: HarperCollins.

Lee, H. (2015). Go Set a Watchman. New York: HarperCollins.

Shanahan, T. & Duffett, A. (2013). Common Core in the Schools: A First Look at Reading Assignments. Washington DC: Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Retrieved from http://edexcellence.net/publications/common-core-in-the-schools

Doing More With Less

The Council of the Great City Schools recently released a report analyzing the amount of testing administered across city schools.  According to the report, students spend roughly 20-25 hours per year on a variety of mandated assessments – some federally mandated and some mandated by a particular state of district.  Over a student’s lifetime that adds up to hundreds and hundreds of hours spent testing.

If that strikes you as excessive you’re not alone; and on Saturday the Obama administration argued that standardized testing should take up no more than 2% of class time:

‘‘Learning is about so much more than just filling in the right bubble,’’ President Obama said in a video posted on Facebook. ‘‘So we’re going to work with states, school districts, teachers and parents to make sure that we’re not obsessing about testing.’’

Obama said in “moderation, smart, strategic” tests can help assess the progress of children in schools and help them learn. But he said that parents are concerned that too much time is being spent on testing, and teachers are under too much pressure to prepare students for exams.

The President’s call to reduce the amount of standardized testing reflects the concerns of parents and educators around the country, that students are spending far too much time in high stakes tests.  That being said, it would be far better to do more with the tests we already have rather than testing more.  Assessments linked to developmental scales, like the Lexile Framework for Reading, provide educators a range of possibilities.  Having access to a student’s Lexile measures means being able to not only monitor the student’s reading growth, but being able to differentiate for and target that student in an appropriate way.  As Obama argued, there’s a place for smart, strategic tests, assessments that equip teachers with the information they need to keep students learning.

MetaMetrics and Departments of Education Team Up to Combat Summer Learning Loss!

This summer MetaMetrics has partnered with twenty two state departments of education to fight summer learning loss. Since 2012 MetaMetrics, in conjunction with the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), has offered the “Chief’s Summer Learning Challenge” to freely support departments of education in order to create and sustain state-led summer reading initiatives. A few years later, MetaMetrics launched a sister program, the “Summer Math Challenge” (SMC).

Summer learning is a beloved, annual project among MetaMetrics staffers. It’s the brainchild of Malbert Smith, Ph.D., the president and co-founder of MetaMetrics, who recognizes that providing free tools to prevent kids from going home to text and resource free environments is a vital endeavor to combating summer learning loss. Dr. Smith also serves on the National Summer Learning Association’s Board of Directors.

“Summer learning loss is not just a problem facing children of low-income families, it is an epidemic across America that affects all students,” stated Dr. Malbert Smith. “For example, all students on average lose approximately 2.6 months of grade level equivalency in mathematical computation over the summer months each year. Such unfortunate statistics qualify a call to action. When we launched the Chief’s Challenge, it was thrilling to see state chiefs positively respond and take action in their states. Even more rewarding are my trips to states’ summer learning launch parties and promotional events. Seeing our young learners rallied and excited to kick off summer learning compels our passion to keep fighting learning loss and to continue our efforts year after year.”

One of the free tools offered for reading is the popular, Lexile-based book search tool, “Find a Book.” “Find a Book” allows readers to search for titles targeted to their reading ability and personal interests, and then to locate those titles at their local library. States can work with MetaMetrics to personalize a “Find a Book” landing page for their students to visit over the summer months. To incentivise the reading challenge, MetaMetrics posts a Summer Reading Pledge. When readers submit their reading pledge they are entered into a drawing to win a Barnes & Noble gift card.

On the math side of MetaMetrics summer learning opportunities is a free, Quantile-based resource that keeps kids practicing their math skills for six weeks over the summer. The SMC is a math skills maintenance program targeted to students who have just completed grade 2 through 6. Parents who enroll their child will receive daily emails with fun activities that are targeted to their child’s Quantile level (mathematical ability) and links to educational resources. For more information about MetaMetrics summer learning opportunities, visit www.lexile.com or www.Quantiles.com.

Dr. Malbert Smith speaks to North Carolina students at Give Five—Read Five summer 2015’s kick off event. Photo credit: North Carolina Department of Public Instruction

Dr. Malbert Smith speaks to North Carolina students at Give Five—Read Five summer 2015’s kick off event. Photo credit: North Carolina Department of Public Instruction

Unveiling the New UK Lexile Map!

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We are pleased to announce that the Lexile® Map has been customized for our UK audience. The new UK version of the Lexile Map is now available to download at http://cdn.lexile.com/cms_page_media/135/UK_Lexile_Map.pdf. Mindful of the growing requests for a printable classroom resource from UK educators, MetaMetrics®, developer of the widely adopted Lexile® Framework for Reading, decided to update the popular American Lexile Map.

MetaMetrics constructed the UK Lexile map with specific intentions. These focus points include 1) the ability to easily print by adjusting the map’s layout to A3 format; 2) customizing sample titles so that the titles were popular titles that were available in the UK; and 3) illustrating the developmental nature of the Lexile Framework for Reading to UK audience. A team was assembled to develop a map that met these goals.

MetaMetrics’ International Team consulted with established education experts in the UK to best tailor the Lexile map to UK classroom needs. Todd Sandvik, Senior Vice President of Global Services, and Jackson Stenner, Manager of Global Services, helmed the initiative. Their efforts included a rigorous selection process for the new titles. Titles were identified from several popular reading lists, including, Amazon UK bestsellers and the World Book Day’s surveyBooks That Every Child Should Read by 16. Selected titles ranged from 200L for early reading books to 1600L for more advanced texts. In addition to providing over 100 popular books at various points on the Lexile scale, the UK map also displays three exemplar texts. These three exemplar texts are excerpted passages from titles measured at the 400L, 900L and 1300L reading levels.

Many schools throughout the United States utilize the print-friendly Lexile Map to post in classrooms and libraries. Teachers, librarians and students can use the UK Lexile Map as a quick reference guide for what a Lexile measure means. Once you know a student’s Lexile measure, you can use the Lexile map to get a sense of his or her reading level in terms of books he or she has encountered.

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The Importance of Leisure Reading – Both at School and at Home

Leisure reading—independent, self-selected reading of a continuous text for a wide range of personal and social purposes—is a critical habit to develop in students as they strive to become college and career ready. And all of us—educators, parents, and communities—have a role in fostering a love of reading and encouraging a lifelong habit of reading for pleasure among our youth.

We also know that leisure reading is on the decline, not only in the United States but around the world and not only at home but at school as well. As the content of a student’s coursework continues to expand each and every year, setting time aside to encourage and promote leisure reading grows more and more difficult. Even the connotations of the term leisure reading may lead many educators to erroneously believe this time is not a wise investment. Research, however, suggests otherwise.

The benefits of leisure reading are well-documented: improved comprehension, language, vocabulary development, general knowledge, empathy, as well as self-confidence in reading, motivation to read throughout one’s life, and positive attitudes toward reading. Additionally, high school students who regularly engage in the practice score significantly higher in reading than do their peers who do not read for pleasure as often.

To address the decline of leisure reading in our classrooms, the joint position statement of the International Reading Association (IRA), the National Council of teachers of English (NCTE) and the Canadian Children’s Book Centre, promotes several recommendations for providing students with leisure reading opportunities during the school day, among them encouraging student selection of reading materials and opportunities to reflect upon, respond to, and share the materials that have been read.

For the benefit of our students we must begin to think of instructional reading and leisure reading not as an either/or initiative but a both/and endeavor. In fact, if we think about the progression of students’ reading skills, we might imagine something similar to what is seen in the visual below. This graphic shows a progression from modeling for students the reading of challenging texts (Read Aloud), to a collaborative, instructional approach to reading challenging texts (Read Along), to finally the independent reading of challenging texts (Read Alone).

Reading

 

(Click image to enlarge)

Just as parents should read with their children and encourage independent reading for pleasure at home, educators should make time for students’ leisure reading at school as well.

As the position statement suggests, “To ensure that students experience the benefits of leisure reading, teachers and families should support students’ reading choices by making available a wide range of print, digital, and multimodal texts that align with and expand on students’ interests and that students are able to read without great struggle”(p. 2).

As we gear up another school year, it is important to consider the advantages of leisure reading and also of utilities such as Find a Book that allow educators and parents to help pair students with books that both capture their interests and also match their level of reading readiness.

Inside the classroom, the Find a Book utility can help students create personalized book lists for leisure reading that are tailored to their interesting and readiness and can also help teachers explore a variety of texts that can complement, support, and enrich the content of their curricula while keeping an eye on the staircase of text complexity each student needs for instructional reading to reach college and career readiness.

Outside the classroom, students can continue to access their personalized book lists for leisure reading through Find a Book and parents and communities can support their students’ growth by using the Find It! feature to locate the nearest public libraries and booksellers that have the chosen books available.

With tools such as these in hand, we can match the right student with the right book at the right time and have a profound impact on the reading habits and learning of our children for a lifetime to come.

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.

AERA Emergent Reader Symposium, 2013

During the 2013 American Educational Research Association (AERA) Annual Meeting in San Francisco, California, a team of MetaMetrics® researchers along with colleagues from other institutions presented the results of a two-year emergent reader text-complexity study.

Here’s a summary of the research and the implications:

  • The research was achieved by having young students read texts and also by having teachers gauge the texts’ complexity.

 

  •  As a result of the emergent reader research, the Lexile® scale was enhanced; now any early-grades text can be placed on the Lexile text-complexity scale.

 

  • The enhanced Analyzer incorporates several text-complexity indicators, including word structure demand, word meaning demand, sentence-level characteristics, and cross-sentence features that model patterning and repetition found in many emergent texts.

What makes the Lexile scale so unique in the field is the degree to which it uses empirical data from students and educators in determining the text complexity of early grades. In comparison, most other text-complexity measures are derived solely from text analysis.

The study was completed by a team from MetaMetrics comprised of; Dr. Heather Koons, Director, Consulting and Development Services and The University of North Carolina Clinical Assistant Professor, Dr. Kim Bowen, Lexile Research Associate, Dr. Jill Fitzgerald, Distinguished Research Scientist and The University of North Carolina Emerita and Research Professor, Mr. Jeff Elmore, Research Engineer, Dr. Mary Ann Simpson, Sr. Psychometrician, Dr. Robin Baker, Director Analytical Services, Dr. Ellie E. Sanford-Moore, SVP Research and Development and Dr. A. Jackson Stenner, Chairman, CEO and Co-founder and The University of North Carolina Research Professor.

The team was joined by Dr. Elfrieda Hiebert, President and CEO of TextProject.org and Amy Clark, Graduate Research Assistant at Kansas University. Dr. P. David Pearson was a discussant at the AERA presentation.

The emergent reader work will be incorporated into the Lexile® Analyzer this fall.



New Lexile.com Enhancements Now Available!

Access More, Easier and Faster: Enjoy the New Lexile.com Enhancements Today!

We are constantly developing new ways for our users to utilize the Lexile® Framework for Reading through our website and its’ free resources.  Keeping all of our audience in mind — educators, parents and students — the following features were developed in efforts to enhance your user experience.

  • Buy a book from Amazon with a simple click of the mouse. In partnership with Amazon, we now provide a quick link for you to purchase a desired book from their store. This is in addition to already existing links that allow you to buy a book from Barnes & Noble, or locate a book in the nearest library via WorldCat technology.
  • Save your searches! Have an account? Never redo the same “Find a Book” search again. Registered users can save any of their searches to be revisited in the future.
  • Password protection feature now available to ensure security within your account. Are you a teacher with personalized reading lists for your students? Add privacy for each reader by setting up a password for your students to view their individual reading list.
  • Review your usage history of the Lexile Analyzer® when you are logged into your account. Never remeasure a text again! Simply visit your ‘Usage History’ on the Lexile Analyzer webpage to view your previously analyzed texts (listed by the date they were measured).
  • Better results faster!
    • Search relevancy optimization enables you to enjoy accurately filtered book results. Type a title into the ‘Quick Book Search’ function, and it will appear top of the list!
    • Experience quicker website navigation with engineered improvement to our website powered by Django compressor.

These recently added features are the first wave of many great additions to come in 2013. Educators and parents, we urge you to use Lexile.com and all of its’ free tools to help your reader(s) grow! Be sure to check out the wealth of resources made available to you at www.Lexile.com as the school year progresses, and especially during the summer months.

In Her Own Words: The Lexile Framework for Reading

We love hearing from teachers on the ways they’ve utilized the Lexile Framework for Reading to support reading growth.  Of special significance to us is hearing teachers describe their successes and their understanding of the Framework in their own words.  That’s why we were thrilled to read this recent piece (subscription required) from educator, Margaret Reed in Kodiak, Alaska:

Last month, I talked about three key ingredients that, when mixed together by a student, create a recipe for reading success.  First is reading practice, third is feedback concerning the effectiveness of the reading practice.  I’d like to focus on the second ingredient:  awareness of the level of text you are choosing to read.

When you pick up a book, how do you know if you will understand most, all, or none of what you are reading? If you are told you are reading at the third grade level, how do you use that information to help you choose text you know you will understand? When you look at a book, what can you use to predict how well you will understand that book?  The Lexile Framework provides a tool to help answer these questions!

Margaret goes on to do a nice job describing some of the more technical aspects of the Framework and even includes information on using the Lexile measure in an instructional setting.

If you’ve seen instances of great ways to introduce educators and parents to the Lexile Framework for Reading, feel free to pass along.  We’re always eager to hear how our metrics are being put to use and helping students around the globe.

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.