Bridging the Readiness Gap

In the latest issue of Chiefline, the newsletter for the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), our own Malbert Smith offers a clear reminder of the importance of establishing empirical standards for whether students have met reading requirements:

Common Core Standards have uncovered alarming trends in terms of student understanding of complex texts, including the downward trend in secondary education’s use of complex tests while post-secondary schools have increased the use of those texts. Recent studies reveal a gap of 65L to 230L between the demands placed on high school seniors and the difficulty of post-secondary texts based on median Lexile measures. A gap of 250L can translate into high school seniors understanding their 12th grade texts to only understanding about 50 percent of their college texts. To appropriately modify the P-20 landscape, educators must do away with labels like “proficient” in favor of empirical evidence of whether students have met reading standards, and lawmakers must adopt standards that evaluate the expectations each grade should use as a guideline.

Smith rightly argues  for utilizing a clear way to assess student reading level.  After all, evidence indicates that the text demand of secondary resources has been steadily declining, while the text demand of post-secondary texts has been on the rise.  Characterizations like ‘proficient’ or ‘satisfactory’ fail to identify a student’s readiness for the demands of the post-secondary world.  A metric, like the Lexile Framework, places both the reader and text on the same scale, thereby establishing a clear way to assess a student’s reading level in relation to the material to be read.  And by comparing the text demand of college resources educators are better able to assess student preparedness for college level text before a student even begins his post-secondary work.

Read the whole thing.

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