Do You Know What Your Fifth Grader is Reading?

by Pat Austin | April 20th, 2014

Readability

Do You Know What Your Fifth Grader is Reading?

By: Pat Austin

SHREVE­PORT –I was at the ball­park this week­end watch­ing a local col­lege base­ball game. As I took my seat I noticed a lady a cou­ple of rows behind me read­ing The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, and I won­dered – does she know that’s below her Lex­ile level? She shouldn’t be read­ing that! The Book Thief, you see, has a 730 Lex­ile level score which places it at about grade 5 read­ing level.

Lex­ile lev­els are the basis of what Com­mon Core uses to deter­mine the com­plex­ity and accept­abil­ity for books in each grade level.

Lex­ile mea­sures work sim­i­lar to the old Accel­er­ated Reader sys­tem, if you’re famil­iar with that. (Every­thing in edu­ca­tion comes back around with a new name, even­tu­ally.) A Lex­ile score deter­mines a book’s com­plex­ity and dif­fi­culty based on a mea­sur­ing sys­tem of sen­tence com­plex­ity, vocab­u­lary, and syn­tax. Theme and con­tent don’t come into play which is why Lex­ile lev­els are billed as “a start­ing point” or a tool for deter­min­ing a book’s accept­abil­ity for your reader.

The result is often bizarre.

For exam­ple, as noted by The New Repub­lic back in Octo­ber, Awe­some Atheletes! by Sports Illus­trated has a Lex­ile score of 1070 which puts it in the grade 910 range. On the other hand, Huck­le­berry Finn by Mark Twain receives a score of 720 which places it around the grade 45 area. Now, to be fair, the Lex­ile ana­lyzer site des­ig­nates books like Huck Finn with a “HL” nota­tion along with the score which means that teach­ers and librar­i­ans should use this des­ig­na­tion when assign­ing books “writ­ten at an ele­men­tary level” to strug­gling older or strug­gling read­ers. Huck Finn is then placed in the 1216 age range; that’s prob­a­bly fair.

To Kill a Mock­ing­bird is scored 870 with no HL des­ig­na­tion which places it at grades 45 level; there is no age rec­om­men­da­tion assigned.

Based on this, Awe­some Ath­letes! is more com­plex than To Kill a Mock­ing­bird.

Back to The Book Thief: this book, if you haven’t read it or seen the film, is set dur­ing World War II in Ger­many; it’s about a young girl who steals books when she can find them; dur­ing bomb­ing raids she reads to her neigh­bors to calm them until the bomb­ing is over. Mean­while, her fos­ter fam­ily has a Jew hid­den in their base­ment; the Jew is even­tu­ally cap­tured and marched off to a con­cen­tra­tion camp, which of course is trau­matic to the girl as she has grown quite fond of him. The nar­ra­tor of the story is Death. Now, I don’t know about you, but I think fifth grade might be a lit­tle young for both the sub­ject mat­ter and pos­si­bly the abstract nar­ra­tive per­spec­tive of Death. But maybe that’s just me.

Com­mon Sense Media assigns a rec­om­mended read­ing age of 13 for this book. (Com­mon Sense Media lists Chelsea Clin­ton on its Board of Direc­tors as well as Geof­frey Cowan from the Annen­berg Foundation).

John Steinbeck’s 455 page story of human per­se­ver­ance in a cross-​country trek dur­ing the Great Depres­sion, The Grapes of Wrath, receives a Lex­ile score of 680 (with no HL des­ig­na­tion); “chal­leng­ing words” in the text include “rusts,” “har­mon­i­cas,” and “box­cars”. Again, that’s grade 45 ter­ri­tory. Com­mon Sense Media says age 15 for this one:

Par­ents need to know that this Pulitzer Prize-​winning novel about share­crop­pers strug­gling to sur­vive the Great Depres­sion, flee­ing the Dust Bowl in Okla­homa for Cal­i­for­nia, is as harsh and gritty as its time. There’s drink­ing, smok­ing, swear­ing, and extra­mar­i­tal sex, and vio­lence stalks the Joad fam­ily and their fel­low migrants. But its real­ism and pas­sion have made it a must-​read for generations.

And again, to be fair, the Lex­ile sys­tem is meant to be used only as a tool. One of the demands of Com­mon Core is the incor­po­ra­tion of more non-​fiction read­ing which means that the teacher could bring in out­side non-​fiction arti­cles or excerpts of doc­u­ments to read along­side these texts which could increase the rigor and com­plex­ity of the entire novel unit. How­ever, as I stated last week, the teacher no longer has this dis­cre­tion. If The Book Thief is assigned to a ninth grade read­ing list, the tenth grade teacher can’t teach it even if the ninth grade teacher doesn’t teach the book.

The prob­lem with the Lex­ile sys­tem, it seems to me, is that it ignores theme and con­tent. If Com­mon Core is meant to increase rigor, what is rig­or­ous about Awe­some Ath­letes? Why are we bas­ing our read­ing choices on such a sys­tem? The answer is almost always “fol­low the money.” At least one of the devel­op­ers of the Lex­ile sys­tem is asso­ci­ated with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foun­da­tion who has poured mil­lions of dol­lars into Com­mon Core and PARCC. And there you have it. The sell­ing out of our edu­ca­tion sys­tem. It’s a tan­gled web once you start pulling away the layers.

Fol­low the money, but for cry­ing out loud, let’s put some com­mon sense back in the classroom.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

******************************************************************

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If that’s not worth $20 a month I’d like to know what is?

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT –I was at the ballpark this weekend watching a local college baseball game.  As I took my seat I noticed a lady a couple of rows behind me reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, and I wondered – does she know that’s below her Lexile level?  She shouldn’t be reading that!  The Book Thief, you see, has a 730 Lexile level score which places it at about grade 5 reading level.

Lexile levels are the basis of what Common Core uses to determine the complexity and acceptability for books in each grade level.

Lexile measures work similar to the old Accelerated Reader system, if you’re familiar with that.  (Everything in education comes back around with a new name, eventually.)  A Lexile score determines a book’s complexity and difficulty based on a measuring system of sentence complexity, vocabulary, and syntax.  Theme and content don’t come into play which is why Lexile levels are billed as “a starting point” or a tool for determining a book’s acceptability for your reader.

The result is often bizarre.

For example, as noted by The New Republic back in October, Awesome Atheletes! by Sports Illustrated has a Lexile score of 1070 which puts it in the grade 9-10 range.  On the other hand, Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain receives a score of 720 which places it around the grade 4-5 area.  Now, to be fair, the Lexile analyzer site designates books like Huck Finn with a “HL” notation along with the score which means that teachers and librarians should use this designation when assigning books “written at an elementary level” to struggling older or struggling readers.  Huck Finn is then placed in the 12-16 age range; that’s probably fair.

To Kill a Mockingbird is scored 870 with no HL designation which places it at grades 4-5 level; there is no age recommendation assigned.

Based on this, Awesome Athletes! is more complex than To Kill a Mockingbird.

Back to The Book Thief:  this book, if you haven’t read it or seen the film, is set during World War II in Germany; it’s about a young girl who steals books when she can find them; during bombing raids she reads to her neighbors to calm them until the bombing is over.  Meanwhile, her foster family has a Jew hidden in their basement; the Jew is eventually captured and marched off to a concentration camp, which of course is traumatic to the girl as she has grown quite fond of him.   The narrator of the story is Death.  Now, I don’t know about you, but I think fifth grade might be a little young for both the subject matter and possibly the abstract narrative perspective of Death.  But maybe that’s just me.

Common Sense Media assigns a recommended reading age of 13 for this book.  (Common Sense Media lists Chelsea Clinton on its Board of Directors as well as Geoffrey Cowan from the Annenberg Foundation).

John Steinbeck’s 455 page story of human perseverance in a cross-country trek during the Great Depression, The Grapes of Wrath, receives a Lexile score of 680 (with no HL designation);  “challenging words” in the text include “rusts,” “harmonicas,” and “boxcars”.  Again, that’s grade 4-5 territory.  Common Sense Media says age 15 for this one:

Parents need to know that this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about sharecroppers struggling to survive the Great Depression, fleeing the Dust Bowl in Oklahoma for California, is as harsh and gritty as its time. There’s drinking, smoking, swearing, and extramarital sex, and violence stalks the Joad family and their fellow migrants. But its realism and passion have made it a must-read for generations.

And again, to be fair, the Lexile system is meant to be used only as a tool.  One of the demands of Common Core is the incorporation of more non-fiction reading which means that the teacher could bring in outside non-fiction articles or excerpts of documents to read alongside these texts which could increase the rigor and complexity of the entire novel unit.  However, as I stated last week, the teacher no longer has this discretion.  If The Book Thief is assigned to a ninth grade reading list, the tenth grade teacher can’t teach it even if the ninth grade teacher doesn’t teach the book.

The problem with the Lexile system, it seems to me, is that it ignores theme and content.  If Common Core is meant to increase rigor, what is rigorous about Awesome Athletes?  Why are we basing our reading choices on such a system?  The answer is almost always “follow the money.”  At least one of the developers of the Lexile system is associated with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation who has poured millions of dollars into Common Core and PARCC.  And there you have it.  The selling out of our education system.  It’s a tangled web once you start pulling away the layers.

Follow the money, but for crying out loud, let’s put some common sense back in the classroom.

 

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

******************************************************************

Olimometer 2.52

This blog exists as a full time endeavor thanks to your support.

The reporting, the commentary and the nine magnificent seven writers are all made possible because you, the reader choose to support it.

For a full month of all of what we provide ,we ask a fixed amount $1465, under $50 a day.

This month we are behind, but we can make our goal if we can get $100 a day for the rest of the month. That’s 4 $25 Tip jar hits.

Jesus said  laborer deserves his payment.  (Lk 10:7) If you think the work we do here for the conservative movement is worth it, please consider hitting DaTipJar below .

Naturally once our monthly goal is made these solicitations will disappear till the next month but once we get 61 more subscribers  at $20 a month the goal will be covered for a full year and this pitch will disappear until 2015.

Consider the lineup you get for this price, in addition to my own work seven days a week you get John Ruberry (Marathon Pundit) and Pat Austin (And so it goes in Shreveport)  on Sunday  Linda Szugyi (No one of any import) on Monday  Tim Imholt on Tuesday,  AP Dillon (Lady Liberty1885) Thursdays, Pastor George Kelly Fridays,   Steve Eggleston on Saturdays with  Baldilocks (Tue & Sat)  and   Fausta  (Wed & Fri) of (Fausta Blog) twice a week.

If that’s not worth $20 a month I’d like to know what is?

 

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