Lexile... and Beyond!

Examining text complexity through multiple lenses

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What are we asking of our students?

The bottom line is that our students aren't being given the same access to hard stuff. What do you remember reading in high school? Are the expectations the same? Years of budget cuts and standardized testing, inclusion efforts for the rising numbers of students receiving language or special education services, apathy towards homework and exploding class sizes have created gaps in foundational reading skills most secondary teachers don't know how to combat. As teachers, we work tirelessly to provide materials for the diverse range of students in our class, texts are chosen for their accessibility and less on their complexity. We give some students the hard article and slide the easier summary across the desk to others. This is done out of love. We want these kiddos to succeed but don't believe they will if we give them the same thing as the rest of the class.

Are we even aware of how the texts we put in front of students support grade-level mastery of standards? When was the last time your PLC looked at the next novel unit and collaboratively assessed the qualitative and quantitative elements of text-complexity for each of your potential texts? While there may be individuals who do this in pockets around the city, how can we support a systematic exploration of this topic?

Equity through curriculum means ensuring that all students, not just some students, are expected to wrestle with these complex texts and perform at the cognitive level of the standard. This will take support, scaffolding, and intentional planning, but our first step in ensuring access is to know for ourselves what we are putting in front of students.

Resources to Explore

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Selecting Complex Texts with Intention

The Association for Middle Level Education explores the 5 plagues of developing readers.

Selecting Diverse Texts (that are also complex)

A tool to assess not only complexity of texts but the perspectives that are represented, the bias that is explored, and how well our students can see themselves in literature we use. TeachingTolerance.org

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