Last week’s exploration of the Appendage to the Common Core’s Appendix A, combined with our ongoing work in schools, makes us wonder once again about the purpose and practicality of all the effort around identifying text levels.
Basically, what Appendix A and it’s sidekick “the Appendage to Appendix A” are saying is this: If you want to approximately determine the level of a text, you should employ the following steps.
1. Find out the Lexile Level.
2. Identify the reading level as determined by an alternate, quantitative measure, such as ATOS or Flesch-Kincaid.
3. If the two levels are aligned, then you have reasonable certainty that you have a sound place to BEGIN thinking about the level of the text. If the two are not aligned, well … our guess is that you find a third quantitative measure and go with the best two out of three, which may or may not include the Lexile level.
4. Decide on a quantitative level based on steps 1-3.
5. Read the book.
6. Examine the book’s structure and approximate the degree of the difficulty on the rubric for qualitative considerations.
7. Examine the book’s language clarity and use of conventions and approximate the degree of difficulty on the rubric for qualitative considerations.
8. Examine the book’s knowledge demands and approximate the difficulty on the rubric for qualitative considerations.
9. Examine the book’s levels of meaning and purpose and approximate the difficulty on the rubric for qualitative considerations.
10. Combine your approximations from steps 5-8 to qualitatively define the difficulty of the text and adjust, if necessary, the level assigned on step 4.
Leveling for Student and Task Demands
11. Think about the student who will read the book and adjust the approximate text level based on your understanding of the student and/or gather resources and develop plans that will support the student in using the text at the level determined in steps 1-10.
12. Consider the task in which the students will encounter the text. Is it shared reading? Then the text can be more difficult. Is it independent reading? Then the text may be too hard.
Whew! So this is the Common Core’s complete process for matching students to texts, as we understand it. We also understand, as does anyone who has worked with students, that even with the exhaustive processes in steps 1-12, you don’t really know how a book fits a student until you put the book into the student’s hands and watch.
The 12 Step Process described above is the recommendation of the authors and researchers behind the complexity elements of the Common Core State Standards. The whole point of the Common Core recommendations which suggest this procedural rigamarole with text leveling is that students are reading too much text that is too easy. We think their concern is warranted, at least somewhat. But really, 12 steps? Do we really want educators sitting through 4 faculty meetings and one full-day PD practicing a lengthy process just to make sure students get a chance to wrestle with harder text?
We will suggest a more intuitive, alternate procedure tomorrow.