Monday, October 5, 2015

Processing: Testing the Reading Pathfinders

The files I located in my office also included Reading Pathfinders published by NWEA (Northwest Evaluation Association).  This is the service that runs the standardized tests our students take every year.  NWEA assembled a list of titles in each Lexile level to recommend to parents and educators.

Each sheet states, "The Reading Pathfinder list printed below is a collection of literature titles customized to match the reading achievement of your student.  According to your student's score on the NWEA Reading Achievement Level Test or Measure of Academic Progress, he or she should be able to read any of these titles at an appropriate level of challenge. All of the books on the list are generally available at local schools, public libraries, and bookstores" (1).

As a parent, I have never received a sheet like this from one of my children's teachers.  I currently have three children in elementary school, so I decided to look at the Pathfinders that would apply to each of them and see how accurate I felt they were.

My son is currently in kindergarten is has a Lexile of BR (beginning reader).  Some familiar titles that appeared on his Reading Pathfinder are:
* Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman
* Bears on Wheels by Stan and Jan Bearenstain
* Biscuit's New Trick by Alyssa Satin Capucilli
* Clifford Makes a Friend by Norman Bridwell
* David Gets in Trouble by David Shannon
* Does Kangaroo Have a Mother, Too? by Eric Carle
* Hop on Pop by Dr. Seuss

My son enjoys all of these titles, and some are his favorites.  I feel that all are age-appropriate and interesting for him.  The list also includes many other titles that we have not read, and I would feel comfortable taking these suggestions.  So far, so good.

My daughter is in second grade.  Her Lexile is 465L to 615L.  I decided to review the 500-590L list as a good "average" for her.  Some familiar titles on this list included:
* The Magic School Bus Inside the Earth by Joanna Cole
* How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss
* Curious George Goes to the Hospital by Margaret Rey and H.A. Rey
* The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
* The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
* Felicity's Dancing Shoes by Valerie Tripp
* The School Bus Driver from the Black Lagoon by Mike Thaler
* Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner
* Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective by Donald J. Sobol
* Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan
* There's a Bat in Bunk Five by Paul Danzinger
* The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman
* Cam Jansen and the Mystery of the Circus Clown by David A. Adler
* Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great by Judy Blume
* Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

This is where I begin to question the accuracy of Lexile measurements.  How can Curious George have the same Lexile as Stargirl?  But with the possible exception of Stargirl, I do agree that my daughter could handle all of these books.  I also appreciate the fact that this list has a column marking the books "E" for elementary or "M" for middle grades (6-8).  While my daughter is reading at this level in second grade, a sixth grader receiving the same list would obviously want to select Stargirl and Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great instead of the other selections.  Although this list did make me question the accuracy of Lexile measurements, I was still happy with the list itself.

My oldest daughter is in fourth grade.  Her Lexile is 1023L-1173L.  I decided to look at the 1100-1190L list for her.  Immediately I could see that it wasn't going to offer her many choices.  There weren't any books on the list marked just "E."  There were a few marked "E-M" and a few more marked "E-M-H."  In their entirety, this list is:
* Eleanor Roosevelt: A Life of Discovery by Russell Freedman
* Lincoln: A Photobiography by Russell Freedman
* The Austere Academy by Lemony Snicket
* How Monkeys Make Chocolate by Adrian Forsyth
* I Have a Dream by Martin Luther King, Jr.
* The Great Fire by Jim Murphy
* And Then There Was One by Margery Facklam
* Rascal by Sterling North
* West from Home by Laura Ingalls Wilder
* When Will This Cruel War Be Over? by Barry Denenberg
* They Swim the Seas: The Mystery of Animal Migration by Seymour Simon
* The Wide Window by Lemony Snicket
* The Wright Brothers: How They Invented the Airplane by Russell Freedman
* Home-Run Hitters by John A. Torres
* The Winter Room by Gary Paulsen
* Get on Board: The Story of the Underground Railroad by Jim Haskins
* Hitty: Her First Hundred Years by Rachel Field
* There's Still Time by Mark Galan

As a parent, I read this list and my heart sinks.  I know that it will be incredibly hard, if not impossible, to convince my daughter to read any of the books that appear on this list.  It seems that in order to read something within her Lexile, she will need to read either nonfiction or the Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket.  Neither of these is something that she would ever pick up on her own, and I know that reading this list would only frustrate and discourage her.  At 10 years old, she would whine and ask why the system doesn't "allow" her to read the books she truly loves, the ones that capture her imagination and interest--the ones that have developed those strong reading skills in the first place.  And as a parent, I'm left to wonder how it's possible that Gone with the Wind, Pride and Prejudice, and A Tale of Two Cities appear on this same 1100L-1190L list.... apparently, if my daughter were to continue to be held to Lexile measurements, those would be considered far "too easy" for her long before she hits high school.

"Reading Pathfinder: Lexile Range = BR."  Northwest Evaluation Association.  August 2006.

"Reading Pathfinder: Lexile Range = 500L-590L."  Northwest Evaluation Association.  August 2006.

"Reading Pathfinder: Lexile Range = 1100L-1190L."  Northwest Evaluation Association.  August 2006.

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