Lexile Measures as Actionable

Here’s parent Mary Helen Ramming expressing bemusement at just how technical and specialized the field of education has become:

I had to laugh this week when my husband expressed his dismay at being completely confounded by my son’s first grade report card.  As a teacher with a master’s degree, an education policy wonk, and daughter of a retired elementary school teacher, I found it to be equally mystifying.

Bear with me here…

On one page, I can tell you the results of his STAR Reading test broken down into his SS, GE, PR Range, IRL, Est. ORF and his ZPD.  It is a good thing too because I was really concerned about his ZPD all year. This page also provides helpful information like, “Use the Accelerated Reader Diagnostic Report and Student Record Report fro more detailed information about the student’s reading practice.”  I can’t find that report, and if I could I am not really quite sure how I would use it.

On another page I see his Lexile Measure and discover that a Lexile Framework for Reading is “an educational tool that links text and readers using a common metric known as the Lexile.”  My husband, an English major, has no idea what a Lexile might be or how to use this helpful tool.

Ramming raises a good point.  Beneath her good-natured jabs at the excessive jargon found throughout her son’s report card, is frustration over the lack of clear actionability. For better or worse, most disciplines tend toward specialization.  For many academic disciplines, specilalization has advanced to such a high degree that even a reasonably educated novice or outsider would be at a loss to explain the issues and concerns that a profession’s disciples spend their time on.  The sorts of issues that, for example, grace the pages of professional journals of philosophy or texts of literary criticism, would be barely recognizable to a non-professional English major or a student of the history of western ideas.   Like most disciplines, education’s trajectory has been one of increasing specialization and a focus on highly technical issues.

What can be so frustrating for the uninitiated, one not steeped in the tradition of assessment nor familiar with the jargon that further defines and reinforces the tradition, is the perceived lack of actionability that comes with all of this information.  That’s understandable.

That’s why we’ve made every effort to make the Lexile Framework for Reading actionable for both parents and teachers.  By indicating the complexity of a book (or any reading material), Lexile measures offer an important starting point for chooosing a text.  After all, by matching a student to books at their reading level, we hope to reduce the frustration young readers often feel having selected books at far too high a level.

Our Lexile Find a Book site , in fact, was built to be a practical way for students (with some parental guidance) to match themselves to the right book.  Simply by entering their Lexile measure and their own areas of interest, e.g. adventure, sports, biographies, etc… students can match themselves to books at both their own reading level and interest.

On the other side of the equation, teachers can use the Lexile measures to differentiate classroom material for struggling readers.  There are hundreds of millions of articles that have been measured .  And this abundance of Lexile-linked material is what allows teachers to target students with reading material on just about any topic – from photosynthesis to civil rights to the solar system – at the right reading level.

Our focus has always been actionability, on providing parents and teachers a piece of information they can do something with.  In this case, our hope is that by matching student to targeted text, we can engender a love of reading as well as help students grow into readers prepared to face the reading demands that await them in college and throughout their careers.

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