Sunday, October 4, 2015

Retrieving: Lexile Training PowerPoint

The last document in the folder from the Lexile training is a PowerPoint from the training session itself.  The handout included handwritten notes from whoever attended the session.

From the PowerPoint, I learned that in 2005, neither Indiana (where I attended college and now teach) nor Illinois (where I attended elementary and high school) had adopted the Lexile system.  That explained why I had not personally been exposed to the Lexile system as a student or an educator.  So by attending this workshop in 2005, my district was probably on the early end of adopting the Lexile system in Indiana.

One slide entitled "'Typical' Classroom" proclaims "By the end of elementary school, there is an 800-900 Lexile range in a typical classroom."

This statement, unfortunately, is true--or maybe even an underestimate.  My oldest daughter is in fourth grade.  Her Lexile is slightly over 1100L.  As the school librarian, I work with all of the kids in the school, and I know that there are several kids in the same grade who read at about 200L.  In this way, the Lexile system is extremely helpful, allowing teachers to provide different reading materials to students with different needs.  But still, the 200L kids get frustrated with being offered beginning readers over and over again while they see their classmates enjoying exciting novels.  And their reading levels don't improve when they only read materials that they aren't interested in.  So as an educator, I see it as a bit of a catch-22.

A handwritten note from whoever attended the session states that the average college-educated adult has a Lexile between 1100L and 1400L.  If this is the case, it explains why I've struggled so much to find age-appropriate reading materials for my daughter within the last couple of years.  If she's at 1100L as a fourth grader, then according to this, she's at the same level as a college-educated adult.  No wonder all the books within her Lexile are too emotionally mature for her!  So what can the Lexile system do for a kid like her??

One screen in the PowerPoint touches on this concern.  It is entitled "Communicating with Parents."  It reads:
" Emphasize that the Lexile Framework does not address:
* Interest
* Age appropriateness
* Text support
* Text quality
It looks only at text difficulty--books should always be previewed by parents."

As both a parent and an educator, this screen pretty much sums up my frustrations with the Lexile system.  If all this system is doing is looking at the text difficulty, but not in any way addressing whether the student is going to be interested in the material, or whether the material is going to be appropriate for the reader, then how useful is it in practice?

The very next screen reads, "Finally, explain the Lexile Framework is a tool for matching readers with appropriately challenging text, not a reading program."

Ahh!  But 10 years later, so many teachers treat it as if it IS a reading program.  Students are told to read ONLY books within their lexiles, yet not given the supports outlined in these articles in order to find those books.  No wonder kids are saying that they don't like reading!  They're given little support and little choice, which of course yields little interest and little reward.

After reading through the entire PowerPoint, I have to say that its information is persuasive.  It includes charts and graphs that demonstrate the Lexile levels of publications such as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, as well as the typical Lexile level achieved by various levels of education and various professions.  The presentation certainly makes a strong case for the importance of developing students with high Lexiles and offers many helpful tips and resources to educators for growing these Lexiles.  If I had sat in this presentation in 2005, having never seen the program in action before, I would probably have been convinced that it was a great idea.

The thing is, the reality of the Lexile system in use today doesn't look much like the idealized version did on paper 10 years ago.  I have had the privilege to work with some fantastic teachers, but I've never known any of them to do the kind of personalization with the system that these articles describe.  In my own school, I wonder if any of the teachers even know that this is what the system was supposed to look like--so much more than requiring once-a-week library checkouts of books stamped with a certain number. I can't blame the Lexile system itself for the fact that the practice is broken when so many other things in education have also gone awry in recent years, but I can at least acknowledge that what we're doing now isn't working and look for a solution.

"The Lexile Framework for Reading."  Presented by MetaMetrics, Inc.  March 11, 2005.

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