Friday, October 23, 2015

Retrieving: Beyond the Classroom

Today's read is entitled "Beyond the Classroom."  It was written by Malbert Smith, Anne Schiano, and Elizabeth Lattanzio, all of whom were employed by MetaMetrics, which makes me wary of the article's slant.  However, the article was published in a journal published by the American Library Association, which legitimatizes it for me.

The article explains the growth of Common Core State Standards and how the Lexile Framework for Reading supports these standards.  Smith, Schiano, and Lattanzio write:

"First and foremost, we need to take a more longitudinal perspective s we prepare all students for the reading demands post high school.  Secondly, every grade, every subject, and every education professional is important in growing the literacy skills of our students.  Too often we have viewed only a subset of our educators (K-3) as responsible for the reading growth of students.  A third point is that we now have a quantitative measure to evaluate whether a student is reading on grade level, a measure that is consistent across districts, states, and our nation" (23).

The chart that the authors are referencing matches the one provided in the Hiebert article.  Here is their rendition:

Later in the article, I was surprised to find this section:
"Unlike some qualitative text-complexity tools that are just 'text-centric,' the Lexile Framework was created through a conjoint measurement model of both reader and text.  In the creation of the Lexile Framework, the importance of the qualitative portion of the triangle was also recognized.  These qualitative features are important and include such characteristics as developmental appropriateness, intended audience, purpose, and even factors such as the book's jacket art.  When matching readers to books, it is important to pay attention to all of these features.  In trying to address some of these qualitative features, MetaMetrics also provides a series of codes.  These codes, while not exhaustive, are intended to capture some of this information that is outside the quantitative measurement of Lexile measures" (24).

Recognition of these qualitative qualities and use of these codes had not been mentioned in any other article I had read, published either my MetaMetrics or any other publisher.  As I reviewed the codes, I realized that I had seen books marked "BR" and "GN," but never with any of the other codes.  I wonder how prevalent use of these codes is.  It seems like it might be complicated to get students to understand them, particularly since I'm not sure I completely understand some of the definitions myself.  However, if used properly, they might address some of my concerns about content and maturity.

I think it's also important to note that the authors provided somewhat of a disclaimer on their own work, similar to what I've been arguing all along.  They write:

"Many factors affect the relationship between a reader and a book, including its content the age and interests of the reader, and the design of the actual book.  The Lexile measure is an important tool in the book-selection process.  However, no tool can replace the professional judgment of a teacher, parent, or librarian in helping students select books for educational and recreational reading" (26).

Yes.  Lexile is a tool, only a tool.  This part, I agree wholeheartedly with. But as teachers face the growing demands of Common Core, will they use the tool correctly?

Smith III, Malbert, Anne Schiano, and Elizabeth Lattanzio.  "Beyond the Classroom."  Knowledge Quest.  Jan/Feb 2014, Vol. 42 Issue 3, p 20-29.

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