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WHY TEXT COMPLEXITY MATTERS. COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS FOR English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects. Text Complexity. The inherent difficulty or ease of reading and comprehending a text combined with consideration of reader and task variables.

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why text complexity matters
WHYTEXT COMPLEXITYMATTERS

COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS FOR English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects

slide2

Text Complexity

The inherent difficulty or ease of reading and comprehending a text combined with consideration of reader and task variables

substantial durable deficits in later reading performance
SUBSTANTIAL, DURABLE DEFICITS INLATER READING PERFORMANCE

NAEP Results

  • Early reading (4th grade)

has improved somewhat.

  • Reading stagnant at

Grades 8 and 12 for 40 years!

  • “Fewer than 40% of high school seniors can read and respond to questions from complicated literary and informational passages. . .and extend and restructure ideas in specialized and complex texts.”
the crisis of complexity
THE CRISIS OF COMPLEXITY
  • Complexity of texts students are expected to handle K-12 has eroded:
    • High school textbooks have declined in all subject areas over several decades.
    • Average length of sentences in K-8 textbooks have declined from 20 to 14 words.
    • Vocabulary demands have declined, e.g., 8th grade textbooks equivalent to former 5th grade texts; 12th grade anthologies equal to former 7th grade.
  • Complexity of college and careers texts have remained steady or increased:
    • Lexile scores of college textbooks have not decreased in any block of time since 1962 and in fact have increased.
    • Vocabulary difficulty of newspapers has remained stable.
    • Word difficulty of scientific journals and magazines 1930–1990 has

increased since 1930.

result
RESULT
  • Huge gap between end of high school and

college reading demands equal to 350L

(Lexile) or the Lexile difference between 4th

grade and 8th grade NAEP texts!

How much should we worry about this gap?

act study
ACT STUDY
  • Purpose: Determine what distinguished text reading performance of students likely to succeed in college and not.
    • Process:
      • Set benchmark score on the reading test shown to be predictive of success in college (“21”) .
      • Looked at results from a half million students.
      • Divided texts into three levels of complexity: uncomplicated, more challenging, and complex.
recap of act findings
RECAP OF ACT FINDINGS
  • Question type (main idea, word meanings, details) is NOT the chief differentiator between students scoring above and below the benchmark.
  • Question level (higher order vs. lower order; literal vs. inferential) is NOT the chief differentiator between students either.
  • What students could read, in terms of its complexity--rather than what they could do with what they read—is greatest predictor of success.
reading between the lines what the act reveals about college readiness in reading
READING BETWEEN THE LINES:WHAT THE ACT REVEALS ABOUT COLLEGE READINESS IN READING
  • Half of high school graduates are ready for college level reading
  • More students are on track in 8th and 10th grade then are actually prepared in 12th grade
  • Approximately 6 million secondary students read below grade level
  • 3 million students drop out of school every day
  • Shortage of basic skills cost the US $16 billion/year in lost productivity and remedial costs.
career and college readiness
CAREER AND COLLEGE READINESS
  • It is also recognized today that the knowledge and skills needed for college are equivalent to those needed in the workplace (American Diploma Project, 2004; Barth, 2003).
  • We and others have documented that improving college and workforce readiness is critical to developing a diverse and talented labor force that will help ensure our nation’s economic competitiveness in a growing global economy (Callan & Finney, 2003; Cohen, 2002; Somerville & Yi, 2002).
the fortunate ones are kids
THE FORTUNATE ONES ARE KIDS. . .
  • Who have had lots of books available to them

at home and whose caretakers read to them in

their early years with great regularity.

  • Who have had teachers that augmented

textbooks with adequately complex reading.

  • Who themselves have become eager and

independent readers because they learned

how to read well in their first years of their

schooling.

the unfortunate ones are
THE UNFORTUNATE ONES ARE. . .
  • Those who are isolated from texts before arriving at the schoolhouse door.
  • Struggling readers who are never given the opportunity to grapple with adequately complex texts.
  • Kids thought not to be able to “handle” the regular curriculum so materials are pitched at a much lower level.
  • English learners who are provided adapted texts that are often so greatly simplified they provide little exposure to the content and the forms/ structures of the language they should be learning.
what s wrong with the simplified text approach
WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE SIMPLIFIEDTEXT APPROACH?
  • Simplified usually means limited, restricted, and thin in meaning.
  • Academic vocabulary can only be learned from complex texts––by noticing how it works in texts, engaging with, thinking about, and discussing their more complex meanings with others.
  • Mature language skills needed for success in school and life can only be gained by working with demanding materials.
  • No evidence that struggling readers—especially at middle and high school--catch up by gradually increasing the complexity of simpler texts. . .
text free or light text sources of information
TEXT FREE OR LIGHT-TEXT SOURCES OF INFORMATION
  • “There may one day be modes and methods of information delivery that are as efficient and powerful as text, but for now there is no contest. To grow, our students must read lots, and more specifically they must read lots of “complex” texts – texts that offer them new language, new knowledge, and new modes of thought.” (CCSS Appendix A, Page 182)
students must be taught to read at grade level
STUDENTS MUST BE TAUGHT TO READ AT GRADE LEVEL
  • Some students will need more scaffolding to read more complex text.
  • Scaffolding should not replace the reading of the text by telling the students what they will learn or becoming a simpler source of information.
  • Scaffolds need to enable all students to access the complex text directly, rather than reduce the complexity of the text.
scaffolds
SCAFFOLDS
  • Read the text aloud with students reading along
  • Guide the readers when encountering places in the text where they may struggle
  • Use shorter pieces of complex text
  • Read closely and reread a great deal
  • Ask questions that can only be answered by close reading of the text
  • Require evidence from the text to explain answers
teachers must ensure that students engage with
Teachers must ensure that students engage with:
  • Age/grade level materials for exposure to structures, content, vocabulary
  • Instructional level materials that allow them to progress
  • Easy materials that allow them to practice

Can be more “challenging” if familiar or interesting

May need to be less “challenging” if unfamiliar or uninteresting

slide22

Three Factors for Measuring Text Complexity

  • Readability measures
    • Word length; word frequency/familiarity
    • Sentence length and text length
    • Lexile

Levels of meaning, structure, language conventionality and clarity, and knowledge demands

Reader Variables (motivation, knowledge, and experience) and task variables (purpose and the complexity generated by the task assigned and questions posed)

measures of text complexity
MEASURES OF TEXT COMPLEXITY
  • Quantitative measures or readability formulas

stand as proxies for semantic and syntactic

complexity:

    • Word length; word frequency/familiarity
    • Sentence length and text length
  • Qualitative measures complement and sometimes

correct quantitative measures:

    • Purpose
    • Language conventionality and clarity
    • Text Structures
    • Knowledge demands
quantitative measures lexiles
QUANTITATIVE MEASURESLEXILES
  • Lexile units are based on word frequency and sentence length. Word frequency is calculated based on words in the Lexile databank (almost one billion).
  • Lexile range from 0 (beginning reading) to 2000 (highly technical texts).
  • A grade level difference is approximately 100 Lexiles.
  • However, reliable scoring does not begin until second grade (Lexile range of 350-400).
qualitative measures uncomplicated text
QUALITATIVE MEASURESUNCOMPLICATED TEXT

Levels of Meaning

  • Explicitly states purpose
  • Single level of meaning

Structure

  • Simple and explicit
  • Graphics unnecessary to understanding text
  • Chronological order

Language Conventionality and Clarity

  • Literal and clear
  • Familiar, conversational, light vocabulary load

Knowledge Demands

  • Low intertextuality, few references to other texts
  • Everyday knowledge and familiarity
qualitative measures complex text
QUALITATIVE MEASURESCOMPLEX TEXT

Levels of Meaning

  • Multiple levels of meaning
  • Purpose may be hidden or obscure

Structure

  • Graphics essential to understanding text
  • Specific to particular discipline
  • Complex, unconventional, implicit

Language Conventionality and Clarity

  • Figurative, unfamiliar, or domain specific language
  • Complex sentence structures, high vocabulary load

Knowledge Demands

  • Content knowledge, specialized knowledge required
  • High intertextuality/many references or citations
other text complexity considerations reader and task
OTHER TEXT COMPLEXITYCONSIDERATIONSREADER AND TASK
  • Percent of expository reading assigned
  • Degree of independence required when reading
  • Vocabulary!
slide30

Increase Emphasis

On Expository Text

Increase percentage of expository text available to students

Eliminate shallow reading from complex expository texts

Increase authentic learning and reading from expository texts

Provide more opportunities to students’ independent reading

of expository texts

need to foster independent reading
NEED TO FOSTER INDEPENDENT READING
  • Students are given considerable scaffolding to comprehend texts in k-12.
  • General movement should be toward decreasing scaffolding and increasing independence because that is what will be demanded in college and the workplace (and on new tests).
slide32

Foster Independent Reading

Gradual Release of Support

Provide opportunities for structured independent reading

Variety of books at differing interest levels, genres,

readability levels, and complexity levels

Spread the love of reading

need to systematically focus on vocabulary
NEED TO SYSTEMATICALLY FOCUS ON VOCABULARY
  • Vocabulary is empirically connected to reading comprehension.
  • Successful instruction incorporates and integrates morphology, phonology, etymology, orthography, and syntax as well as meanings.
  • Instruction needs to be developed from text (frequency of rare words in even educated adult conversation is 17.3 per 1000 words)
  • Instruction needs to include heavy dose of informational text as it contains more rare words than narratives.
  • Instruction needs to teach how meanings of words vary with context (e.g., Texas was admitted to the union, he admitted his errors, admission was too expensive).
special focus on general academic vocabulary
SPECIAL FOCUS ON GENERAL ACADEMIC VOCABULARY
  • Words that are likely to appear frequently in a wide variety of texts/disciplines (utility & importance)
  • Words that are necessary for understanding a text and allow for rich representations (instructional potential)
  • Words that relate to other words and offer students more precise ways of referring to ideas they already know about (conceptual understanding)
sequenced vocabulary instruction
SEQUENCED VOCABULARY INSTRUCTION
  • First, contextualize the word for its use in the story that you are reading.
    • “She’s just too much of a distraction and I’ve been getting calls from the other parents. They’re afraid those stripes may be contagious.”
  • Next, ask the children to repeat the word so that they can create a phonological representation of the word.
    • “Say contagious with me.” (clap it out)
  • Next, explain the student friendly meaning of the word.
    • “Contagious means an illness that can spread to other people.”
  • Provide examples in contexts other than the one used in the story.
    • “The surgeon scrubbed his hands to prevent the spread of contagious germs.”
  • Have students interact with the word…
  • “Could you be contagious if you went to work with strep throat?
research underway
RESEARCH UNDERWAY
  • To develop a tool that will gauge the complexity of texts in a number of dimensions including but not limited to readability measures.
  • To work with publishers on how to best use this tool in selecting texts as well as in developing materials and programs for states adopting the CCSS.
  • To develop a pool of annotated texts that exemplify and benchmark the process of evaluating complexity to help educators develop/select the best materials and methods for students.
  • To work with assessment developers so their assessments are based on these same principles.
slide38

of newspapers has remained stable.

! Word difficulty of scientific journals and magazines 1930–1990 has

increased since 1930.

  • Texts are instructional tools for student learning.
  • Educator knowledge of text impacts the quality of instruction and student development in effective use of these tools.
  • Educators need to understand the impact of text complexity.

So, Where Do We Go From Here?

what schools can do now
WHAT SCHOOLS CAN DO NOW
  • Take Complexity Inventory of what students are reading in each grade and make adjustments.
  • Adjust balances of texts so students are exposed to:
    • More informational texts K-5
    • More literary non-fiction 6-12
  • As much as possible use on grade/band level text for instruction (with supports).
  • Ask students to stretch to read more complex texts— especially short texts--beyond their reading level (with supports).
what schools can do now cont d
WHAT SCHOOLS CAN DO NOW, CONT’D.
  • Teach students to read strategically. . .to slow down to understand key points and to re-read passages.
  • Attend systematically to building general academic vocabulary across-the-board.
  • Make word learning part of the school culture!
  • Give frequent formative assessments that present students with standards based tasks and provide absolutely no direct teacher support.
reading standards
READING STANDARDS

The reading standards place equal emphasis on the sophistication of what students read and the skill with which they read. (CCSS Page 8)

standard 10
STANDARD 10

Standard 10 defines a grade-by-grade “staircase” of increasing text complexity that rises from beginning reading to the college and career readiness level.

standard 10 grades k 1
STANDARD 10 – GRADES K-1

Grade K

Actively engage in group reading activities with purpose and understanding.

Grade 1

With prompting and support, reads informational texts appropriately complex for grade 1.

standard 10 grade 2 3
STANDARD 10 - GRADE 2-3

By the end of the year, read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, in the grades 2-3 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.

standard 10 grade 4 5
STANDARD 10 – GRADE 4-5

By the end of the year, read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, in the grades 4-5 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.

text complexity and the growth of comprehension
TEXT COMPLEXITY AND THE GROWTH OF COMPREHENSION

Whatever they are reading, students must also show a steadily growing ability to discern more from and make fuller use of text, including making an increasing number of connections among ideas and between texts, considering a wider range of textual evidence, and becoming more sensitive to inconsistencies, ambiguities, and poor reasoning in texts. (CCSS Page 8)

illustrative texts for k 5
ILLUSTRATIVE TEXTS FOR K-5

Texts illustrating the complexity, quality, and range of student reading K-5 – page 32 of Common Core State Standards booklet.

appendix a
APPENDIX A

Overview & Research Supporting Text Complexity

Pages 1-16

appendix b
APPENDIX B

Text exemplars illustrating the complexity, quality, and range of reading appropriate for various grade levels with accompanying sample performance tasks.