Sunday, October 25, 2015

Retrieving: Text Demands on Students

Today's article was a shorter one.  It's entitled "Text Demands on Students Don't Meet Life's Demands" and was written by Melissa Ezarik.

The article's main argument rests on a statement from Gary L. Williamson from MetaMetrics.  Responding to concerns from the workforce and colleges, Williamson concludes, "not only is the typical end-of-high school text lower in its text demand, but the vast majority of high school texts require less reading ability than most of the reading material students are likely to encounter after high school" (76).

This chart demonstrates what Williamson is saying:

The article was published in 2005, and I wonder how much its findings were responsible for the push in recent years to introduce more nonfiction and technical writings in the classroom.  This has been a definite shift since I started teaching.  But I'm not sure that it's truly "helping" students.  While we may be challenging high school students to read texts that have higher lexiles, these texts also tend to have lower interest levels.  

In my last few years of teaching, my high school students complained bitterly about assigned classroom texts.  While meeting state and district requirements, I rarely got the chance to introduce texts that would capture their interest--or mine.  I graduated a generation of students who never knew what it felt like to love reading, and I left the classroom for the library, convinced that I needed to get out of education if I wanted the chance to actually teach kids to like books.  What kind of backwards logic is this?  But it's what happens when we force-feed kids a diet of all high-lexile, low-interest texts.  So while adults with low reading levels may indeed be a problem, the methods that we've employed over the past 10 years are not, in my opinion, the solution.

Ezarik, Melissa. "Text Demands on Students Don't Meet Life's Demands."  District Administration.  June 2005, Vol. 41 Issue 6, p 76.

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