For my course, I was assigned to write an initial plan paper outlining my ideas on what I planned to do for my project. Here is what I submitted:
For my personal inquiry project, I will be examining the subject of lexiles. In the elementary school where I just started working as the librarian, students are assigned lexile numbers based on their performance on standardized testing, which is administered three times yearly. If students are sick on the test day, or if they simply perform poorly on standardized tests in general, the lexile number cannot be adjusted until the next standardized test. Throughout the entire school year, most teachers require that one of each student's weekly checkouts be within their lexile range.
Furthermore, the classroom teachers require that students take Reading Counts quizzes within their lexile range each quarter in order to gain credit for their reading classes. The number of quizzes required for varies depending on the grade and level of the reading class; most classes are asked to read and test on two to four books per quarter, all within the student's individual lexile range. Students with low lexiles may struggle to find books of interest to them. On the other end of the spectrum, books with high lexiles can often be too mature in content and language for advanced readers in lower grades.
Lexiles touched my work as a public librarian as well, when parents would often come in to the children's room and ask to check out a book at a "Level K" or a "300 lexile." When well-meaning parents take their children to the public library in search of leveled books for classroom practice or to qualify for Reading Counts (or Accelerated Reader or other similar programs) tests, they don't understand where to look or how to located books at the appropriate reading levels. Public librarians become frustrated with trying to understand the school leveling system instead of helping parents select quality literature for their children.
Because most of my experience is with high school students, I have no formal background with learning or understanding the lexile system. The little that I do know has been explained to me by my daughters' (now ages 9 and 7) classroom teachers over the years. My instinct is to feel that the lexile system is flawed and that there must be a better way of measuring student reading ability, but I may only feel that way because I've had such a hard time finding appropriate reading materials for my oldest daughter (now 4th grade), who reads way above grade level but emotionally is probably a little lower.
During the course of my inquiry, I'd like to find out specifically how lexiles are determined. I plan to read research on both sides of the lexile debate--both supporters and critics of the system. I would also like to find out what alternatives there are for measuring student reading ability. I'd like to look into the pros and cons of these systems as well and determine whether any other system might be a possibility for my school in future years. I will begin by using the databases available to us through the University Library. I may also ask the teachers at my school if they know of any sources that I might find helpful.
I plan to use the Alberta Model for inquiry and to keep a journal of my experiences. I'm looking forward to this project and hoping that I glean some useful information for my school!