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.

A Just Right Reading List

We’re always happy when we hear about our tools and metrics being put to use by those outside of education. We designed tools, like Find a Book, with more than educators in mind. Our hope is that parents are able to use Find a Book year round to help students select books they actually want to read. That’s why we’re thrilled to see posts like this from Ellen Weeren over at A Reason to Write:

If you have ever been to the library or book store with a child, you know full well how hard it can be to find a “just right” book for that child to read.

Well, Lexile will make choosing a book a (much) easier undertaking.

On the Lexile website, at the top of the homepage (right next to the “home” tab on the upper left corner of the site) is the “find a book” tab. Click it and you will be prompted for your child’s Lexile measurement. (You can also get an estimate of that by pulling up a book that s/he has recently read and seeing what it’s ranking is. Then use that ranking for your child as an estimate.) Then they will also ask what grade the child is in.

Then you to select what types of books the child enjoys reading – mystery, fantasy, humor, etc.

Finally, you will get a long ‘o list of suggestions. Click on one that interests you/your child and you will get a summary of the book and a list of awards it might have won…

This is also a wonderful place for grandparents to figure out what books to buy their grandchildren.

And don’t forget Find a Book’s link to the public libraries as well. By clicking on the WorldCat link, users can determine if a public library carries the title they want – making books accessible to all readers. If you haven’t yet used it, be sure to give Find a Book a try.

Useful Assessments

This recent Education Week Teacher article, “Survey: Teachers Place Little Value on Standardized Tests” prompts the consideration of the purposes of standardized testing in the United States. A recent report published jointly by Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundations states that only 28% of educators believe the state-required standardized tests inform or gauge student achievement.

Additionally, survey respondents worried that many students fail to take standardized test seriously and therefore, do not perform as well as they do on quizzes and test administered during classroom instruction.

It’s important to point out, however, that standardized testing can actually be used to inform instruction if those assessments have been linked to The Lexile® Framework for Reading and The Quantile® Framework for Mathematics. When standardized tests are linked to these frameworks student score reports can identify their levels of ability, monitor growth over time, and inform instruction that in a way that allows educators to target student ability levels for both reading and mathematics.

The Lexile framework offers a developmental scale that teachers can use to match text to a student’s reading ability. The Lexile Find a Book site offers an abundance of book titles with Lexile measures so that parents and teachers can match the material appropriate to the student’s interest and reading ability level. The Quantile framework is another developmental scale that teachers can use to match student’s mathematics ability to the difficulty of mathematics topics at the introductory level. These various topics in mathematics can be found at the Quantile website where most major skills and concepts have been aligned to state standards.

If standardized tests are linked to The Lexile Framework for Reading or to The Quantile Framework for Mathematics, the assessment allows educators to differentiate in meaningful ways.  If you haven’t already check out these valuable resources, be sure to take a look.

Less Than Prepared

Here’s an interesting new study out from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) examining the preparedness of Texas students for college-level reading.  Researchers used the Lexile measure to gauge both student reading level and the demands of entry level college reading in English.  Unfortunately, they found that many 11th grade Texas students, particularly among a number of sub-groups, are unprepared for the rigorous requirements of college level work.  Most striking in the report was the depth of the analysis and its meticulous drill down on the readiness of a wide variety of sub-groups.  Though the report found a wide pattern of unpreparedness, a few findings stand out:

  • Economically disadvantaged students were less prepared than those who were not economically disadvantaged.
  • At risk students were less prepared than those who were not at risk.
  • Students taking at least one career and technical education course were slightly less prepared than those not taking such a course.

Read the whole report for a more detailed analysis. 

It’s worth noting that one of the benefits of the Lexile Framework – as the study authors acknowledge – is its easy accessibility as a tool for measuring growth toward college and career readiness.  Because we know the typical reading level of college level text , we have an end point in mind by which to assess growth.  And the Lexile Framework is an especially useful tool for establishing an aspirational trajectory and then responding with increased instruction and remediation for students on a trajectory to fall short of college preparedness.  The Lexile Framework – when coupled with sound instructional practices is not only a tool to measure growth, but to match students to targeted, though challenging, text as well.  Let’s hope teachers across the nation can put this tool to use for all students, particularly those on a trajectory to be unprepared for life after high school.


Text Complexity Takes Hold

Given the Common Core’s emphasis on text complexity, an increasing number of educators are paying more attention to the complexity of the texts they assign.  Here at MetaMetrics, our focus has always been on understanding the relationship between the reader and the text and utilizing a common metric (Lexile) to characterize that relationship.  That’s why we’re so excited to make two related announcements: first, over 100,000 users have registered to use our free, publicly available Lexile Analyzer tool.  This tool allows users to analyze the complexity of small bits of texts to obtain a Lexile measure.  We’re thrilled to see that so many educators are focused on the complexity various pieces of text and are utilizing this wonderful tool.  If you have not yet tried this tool, click here to register and start using.

On a related note, we’re also happy to announce that 50 new publishers adopted the Lexile measure in 2011.  With the recent shift from proficiency to college and career readiness, school districts around the country are focusing on what it means to be college and career ready, specifically what it means to graduate prepared to read college level text.  With all the recent emphasis on college and career readiness, it is vital that students be introduced to increasingly sophisticated levels of complex texts.  Which is why it’s refreshing to see so many new publishers begin to recognize the significance of text complexity.  These new publishers add to a growing roster of hundreds of publishers that now routinely measure their books using Lexile measures.  Some of these new publishers include American Girl, Black Rabbit Books, Medallion Press, Nomad Press, and many, many more.  To all of our new publisher partners, welcome aboard.

A “Road Map for Kansas”

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback held a Literacy Summit this month to discuss his “Road Map for Kansas” and establish three measurable literacy objectives for said roadmap.  Based on NAEP data, Governor Brownback proposed the following three measurable literacy objectives:

1)  Kansas 4th grade students will have a 9% increase on their state reading assessment scores in 2013, meeting Kansas’ current goal of having 95% of students qualify to “Meets Standard” status.

2) For average 4th grade reading scores in 2014, Kansas will be in the top 5 states for highest scores.

3) For average 4th grade reading scores in 2018, Kansas will rank number 1. According to previous data, this boost in ranking would require an increase of 14 points on Kansas NAEP scores. 

Among the literacy experts and educators that were invited to Kansas’ Governor Brownback’s December 7th Literacy Summit include President of Literacy First, Bill Blokker, Director of the University of Kansas Center for Research, Don Deshler, Education Specialist for Save the Children, Cara Schrack, and our own MetaMetrics’ President and Co-founder, Malbert Smith. Malbert discussed the research concerning summer loss in reading and the need to address it.  In addition to summarizing the research, Dr. Smith shared strategies and tools, such as Find-A Book, that states and districts can employ to reduce summer loss.

Governor Brownback concluded that, “This summit was a great opportunity to meet with educational leaders and stakeholders to discuss the challenges we face and the solutions we seek.”  We applaud Kansas on their effort to make student literacy a top priority.

Minimizing the Digital Divide: Comcast’s ‘Internet Essentials Program

As educators and policy makers have attempted to eliminate the achievement gap over the years, one of the well-documented pernicious gaps continues to be the “digital divide”.  In fact, a google search on “digital divide” yields over 4 million hits as of October 12, 2011. While there are several definitions of the term, Wikipedia captures the essence in the following description:

More recently, some have used the term to refer to gaps in broadband network access. The term can mean not only unequal access to computer hardware, but also inequalities between groups of people in the ability to use information technology fully.

Last month, we as a country made a major step in addressing this problem with the joint announcement by the Comcast Corporation, FCC, and District of Columbia Public Schools. This major step is the national roll-out of Comcast’s Internet Essentials program, which will provide affordable internet access to low income families. At an Internet Essentials launch event, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski assessed the digital divide and the need for affordable broadband. With broadband being essential to the academic success of America’s youth, Chairman Genachowski reflected that “the digital divide is seriously troubling; more troubling now than in the past, because the costs of digital exclusion are rising”. Genachowski continued this sentiment noting, “Students increasingly need to go online to complete their homework assignments.” Chairman Genachowski further remarked on the stark statistics and detrimental nature of the digital divide. He referenced research that shows one-third of all students and most of all low-income students do not have internet access at home.

This lack of resources available due to the digital divide results in a lose-lose situation in education. When faced with this problem, teachers will either assign Internet-based homework or not. Either the students without Internet access at home are hurt, or the students do not learn how to utilize the Internet and do not attain necessary Internet skills. However with Comcast’s Internet Essentials program, teachers can escape this lose-lose situation. (more…)

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.