Industry Notes: MetaMetrics Announces an Upgrade to the Lexile Framework for Young Readers

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In a move ‘to advance the science behind measuring text complexity,’ the company behind the Lexile scale used in education for beginning readers is enhanced, according to its parent company.

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By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

More Precision Promised for K-2 Content
Beginning readers will more easily be able to find books matched to their skill levels, according to Tuesday’s (September 19) announcement from MetaMetrics, based in Durham, North Carolina.

MetaMetrics, founded in 1984 as a student testing enhancement program, today partners with US publishers, education companies, and state-level departments of education, primarily in support of its flagship offering, the Lexile Framework for Reading.

The Lexile approach uses a scale for measuring both a young reader’s level of competency and the complexity of text that student may come across. MetaMetrics reports to news media that the Lexile metrics are being received by tens of millions of students “to help them choose targeted readings from more than 100 million articles, books, and sites that have been measured.”

In a prepared statement, MetaMetrics co-founder Maltert Smith, is quoted, saying, “Our research suggests that a large proportion of growth occurs by the end of third grade. It’s essential that we equip educators and parents with the best tools and means for ensuring student success…A team of experienced psychometricians, reading researchers and external experts came together to advance the science behind measuring text complexity.”

The result is a three-part enhancement to the Lexile Framework, all meant to do a more precise job of matching a student to the right early reading material for her or him.

From press materials provided by MetaMetrics, here are quick descriptions of the trio of new enhancements.

“First, the 2000-point Lexile scale was extended to measure students and texts below 0L. Previously, all books measuring below 0L were given a standalone “BR” (Beginning Reader) code. Now, thanks to extensive research, texts with a BR code will also receive a Lexile measure (e.g., BR100L). The addition of a Lexile measure for books below 0L allows for greater differentiation at the beginner level.

“Second, materials read in K–2 classrooms are now being measured across more dimensions. Based on input from teachers and reading specialists and through studies on the reading behaviors of young students, MetaMetrics’ researchers identified nine variables that most accurately and reliably measure text complexity of K–2 content. This nine-variable model was incorporated into the algorithm that is used to determine the Lexile measure of a book or piece of text.

“Finally, new information, called ‘early-reading indicators,’ is being provided for K–2 content to help identify text features that could present more or less of a challenge. By knowing which text features are contributing to the text complexity of early-reading materials, educators and parents can better select a text for a particular reader. For example, a text with low decoding demands and a low decoding early-reading indicator (i.e., many easy-to-decode words) could be selected for a student who is ready to apply their knowledge of basic sound and letter relationships and patterns to practice reading books on their own. The early-reading indicators can also be used to ensure that a reader is getting exposed to a variety of different types of reading materials.”

Lexile’s text measures have become a standard for many educators in matching students and reading material. The numeric values everyone is accustomed to using haven’t changed.

Publishers are expected to be able to use the upgraded Lexile offering to more accurately target the right material for student needs. The company is offering a webinar on the reported advances on October 10 and more information and information on that is here.

And while various appraisals of the Lexile Framework’s efficacy have offered differing opinions, of course, some of the most interesting applications have involved not young readers but adults, as in the work by University of Florida (UF) researchers Yellowlees Douglas and Samantha Miller, who surveyed MBA students’ reading patterns. “Students who read exclusively online content like BuzzFeed, Tumblr, or the Huffington Post had the lowest scores in robust measures of writing complexity,” according to a UF report from May 2016, “including lengths of sentences and sophistication of their word choice.

“Students who read academic journal articles or critically acclaimed fiction had the highest scores.”

There could be a marketing hook in that for publishers of adult fiction, while for “companies that provide learning resources” to beginning readers, the Lexile Framework improvements are being touted as creating a step forward in matching readers to the right texts.

“When students read text within their Lexile range, they’re more likely to comprehend it, while still being sufficiently challenged to maintain interest and learning,” says the promotional press material provided to the media.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. Prior to that he was Associate Editor for The FutureBook, a channel at The Bookseller focused on digital publishing. Anderson has also worked with CNN International, CNN.com, CNN USA, the Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and other media.

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