Controversy Around Text Complexity Goes Mainstream

Infographic from

Infographic from

I haven’t posted on EdGeeks for awhile, but felt a surge of excitement when I saw Andrew Sullivan’s post about text complexity on The Dish. Everyday I find myself faced with the controversial issues surrounding text complexity and the Common Core. To see my teacher-battle shared on Andrew Sullivan’s site made me so ecstatic that I had to write into him. Here’s what I wrote!

Avid fan here – and very happy to see you share about the controversial issues surrounding text complexity in classrooms today. I’m an instructional coach of grades 1-8 in NYC, and a former teacher. I love teaching more than anything. I try to stay as optimistic as I can these days, though the job has changed and often I feel beat down as many of us do. Today, reading this post – I felt a tinge of hope. We rarely hear about this issue surrounding text complexity in mainstream conversations. If the controversy around text complexity has reached The Dish, then maybe change is closer than we think.

The general public has little to no idea how misinterpretations around the CCSS’s use of Lexile levels are affecting young readers. When you read Appendix A of the ELA Core Standards in depth, you get a sense of how Lexile really is just one piece of the puzzle. Appendix A shares about how Lexile levels offer us a quantitative measure but cannot stand alone. The appendix states, “The tools for measuring text complexity are at once useful and imperfect. Each of the qualitative and quantitative tools described above has its limitations, and none is completely accurate.” Lexile’s website mentions that, “It is important to note that the Lexile measure of a book refers to its text difficulty only. A Lexile measure does not address the content or quality of the book.” The problem is that few of us actually read the appendix, and many of us don’t actually know what Lexiles are. This has led to the severely detrimental misinterpretation that Lexiles can be the sole measure of text complexity and appropriateness for our students.

Teachers out there…I leave you with the following food for thought: “Rigor is not an attribute of a text, but rather a characteristic of our behavior with that text. Put another way, rigor resides in the energy and attention given to the text, not in the text itself.” –Kylene Beers and Robert E. Probst from Notice and Note

Parents and general public…I dare you to get involved.

Want to learn more?

Fifth Grade Is Too Late For Steinbeck? -The Dish

Federal Bureaucrats Declare ‘Hunger Games’ More Complex Than ‘The Grapes of Wrath’The Common Core’s absurd new reading guidelines – New Republic

Teachers Are Supposed to Assign Harder Books, but They Aren’t Doing It Yet – The Atlantic (This one is quite a frustrating read!)



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