Lexile® Measures: A Parent’s Guide
Lexile® reading levels are an important tool for many teachers. In fact, MetaMetrics—the company behind the Lexile Framework for Reading—states on its website that “over 35 million U.S. students from all 50 states” are given a Lexile measure (or "score") each year, which they receive after taking a Lexile-linked reading assessment to determine their reading level. In addition, texts themselves may be analyzed to determine their Lexile measure (i.e., how difficult they are to read in terms of characteristics such as “sentence length and word frequency”).
For parents, understanding and appreciating Lexile measures can be a great way to guide and support students' reading skills while also helping them find the right book to read.
Breaking down reader and text measures
First, a little more information about what Lexile measures are designed to do: An individual student’s Lexile measure, as determined by a Lexile-linked assessment, can be paired with a text’s measure to create a list of books that will likely be just challenging enough for the reader. As a MetaMetrics guide to Lexile measures put it, “A very useful feature of Lexile reader and text measures is that they can be used together to predict how well a reader will likely comprehend a text at a specific Lexile level.”
It is important to note that a perfect match for both reader and text—at, say, the 1000 level—does not necessarily mean that the book will be an easy read. Instead, according to the MetaMetrics guide, the student will typically be able to grasp about 75 percent of the text’s content while reading independently. Reading with assistance would most likely boost the student’s comprehension, although MetaMetrics advised that students should also be allowed to choose books that fall as many as either 100 points below or 50 points above their Lexile level (something Lexile’s creators refer to as the “Lexile range”).
What can Lexile measures do?
Here is a list of some key Lexile measure functions that may be useful for parents:
Provide a baseline. Although Lexile measures are not intended to neatly align with grade levels, they can be used to give parents a ballpark estimate of how their students’ reading measure matches up with typical age-group expectations. Lexile measures have also been paired with kindergarten readiness—and, for older students, with college and career readiness, which is a major focus of today’s public education systems. To help ensure the latter, texts should increase in difficulty as students near the end of their K–12 experience, and parents can use the Lexile chart to keep tabs on their students’ progress in this area.
Facilitate growth. Lexile measures can be used to track how far students at all levels have come in terms of their emerging or continuing reading skills. For those who are struggling readers, a Lexile measure check-in that uses scores collected at various times can be a good way to determine whether adequate progress is being made. Similarly, an assessment of growth can be useful to ensure students with advanced reading skills are being adequately challenged either at school or with self-selected books.
Offer helpful guidance. Knowing where to start when it comes to selecting books for your student can seem overwhelming. There are websites filled with thousands of titles, as well as an equally dazzling array of selections on library and bookstore shelves. Fortunately, Lexile’s website features a handy tool called “Find a Book” that allows parents or students to plug in a Lexile measure (or the student's grade, if they don’t know their specific Lexile level). After the website asks users to select from a list of subject areas, a helpful list of Lexile-appropriate titles pops up, providing a curated approach to nurturing a student’s interest in reading. (Note: Users can also create their own easily updated reading list with this tool.)
Developing a better understanding of what Lexile measures indicate and how they can be used to support and encourage a student’s progress with reading is sure to be beneficial, especially since the Lexile Framework for Reading is so widely used to match readers with texts. The Lexile website also notes that the measures can be “a talking point to discuss your child’s reading progress with their teacher”—a point that should not be overlooked in this era of often-confusing education jargon.
Moreover, the Lexile system is designed to be more than a fad or a flash in the pan. In fact, as the team behind Lexile notes with pride, the Lexile approach is “based on more than 30 years of rigorous research” and the measures are continually being assessed using a scientific framework, which should offer assurance to parents looking for meaningful, expert-driven ways to help their students become strong, capable readers.
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