A text complexity rubric is used to determine the rigor of the text. Lexile level is only one component of this rubric. Educators must not just consider the quantitative measure, but the qualitative measure of each text.
Fascinating. For an intelligent student struggling to develop decoding fluency a book with lower lexile scores and high thematic complexity is exactly what we should select. This article suggests that thematic complexity, idiosyncratic language, curriculum context and the interests and developmental level of the students all must be considered before a text is ruled "in" or "out." I will post Lemov's Five Plagues of the developing reader next.--Lou
".. Lemov said that measuring books by vocabulary and sentence length doesn’t account for all the ways that texts can be challenging for students, and suggested a more holistic look at how educators and leaders choose and assign books under the new standards – what he calls The Five Plagues of the Developing Reader. His list of textual qualities to consider goes above and beyond vocabulary and sentences, and includes archaic language, non-linear time sequences, unreliable or complex narrators, figurative or symbolic text, and resistant text, which makes the reader work to uncover its meaning.
To give an example of the gap between a Lexile score and the Five Plagues approach, Lemov took a few of his favorite middle school books to teach, and plotted them on a graph alongside the target Lexile range according to the Common Core exemplar books for middle school. “The circles represent the Common Core sweet spot,” for each grade, he said.
“It’s not just that some of our favorite books don’t measure up on the Lexile scale,” Lemov wrote in an accompanying blog post, “but that often those very same books are the ones we think are eminently rigorous. And they sometimes scored lower than ones we think of as less rigorous.”
For example, two favorites, Lord of the Flies (770L) and The Outsiders (750L), are textual cousins according to Lexile, and both come in lower than the target complexity for grades seven and eight. But Lemov said anyone who has read Lord of the Flies knows that’s not true. “Lord of the Flies is hard, and significantly harder [than The Outsiders], significantly more complex,” said Lemov. “Anyone who has read that book knows how hard it is. It has archaic language, it’s full of allusions to different worlds, they use British English.”
Lemov appears to view the Lexile scores for student texts as a small part of a much larger conversation teachers need to be having about the books they teach and why. And he and his team of teacher-researchers encourage educators and school leaders to intentionally manage text selection to ensure they’re maximizing the different kinds of complexity, making sure kids get exposed to all the different ways books can be challenging.
“It’s too important to let it happen by accident,” he said. “Our argument is, you have to systematically expose kids [to different kinds of text]. If you’ve never read archaic text, or language that’s 150 years old, when you get to college, and someone hands you The Faerie Queene, you’re dead.”