An Explanation of Lexile's Realignment to the Common Core State Standards and how DORA's Comprehension Sub-Test Aligns to the Common Core State Standards
Background: A Lexile score is the readability level of a passage of any length based on word frequency and sentence length.
Given that the CCSS are looking to prepare all students for college entrance, a simple reading level becomes a difficult measure to use. MetaMetrics, in their desire to keep the Lexile measure up to date and relevant, realigned their Lexile scores into bands that are aligned to CCSS. In general, they increased the range of bands aligned to each grade level and increased the score. While this makes sense, one must realize that the Lexile reading level by itself is fundamentally limited in what it can do to predict or measure student comprehension readiness.
The Comprehension Sub-test of the DORA assessment has always used multiple factors in determining its criterion-referenced threshold of mastery:
1. Passages are initially leveled using the Flesch-Kincaid scale, which is a similar leveling system to Lexile for establishing text readability. Released passages developed for use in the SMART assessment are leveled using both Flesch-Kincaid and Lexile readability scales.
2. In addition to the preliminary Flesch-Kincaid leveling for each passage, Let’s Go Learn increases text complexity by considering issues of content complexity, content-specific vocabulary, and sentence complexity (which is different from sentence length). As a result, Let’s Go Learn test passages are often appropriate for measuring the comprehension of a higher reading level than its Lexile level alone might suggest. This mixed-method technique for leveling assures that each text is being evaluated both quantitatively and qualitatively for use in measuring comprehension; the mixed-methods leveling technique is also used in development of the SMART assessments.
3. Passages increase in length as the grade level of the passages goes up. This adds a variable into the mix: Longer passages require a greater ability to process text, since students must retain more knowledge and process it. Readability scales in general do not consider the length of the total passage nor the methods used to assess comprehension.
4. In testing comprehension, Let’s Go Learn uses only non-fiction passages, which by nature are more difficult to comprehend than their similarly-leveled fictional counterparts.
Let’s Go Learn also assesses comprehension differently than some other comprehension measures, which often results in reading levels that are skewed lower than other assessments and rarely results in inflated DORA grade-level equivalencies. Consider the following:
1. Students must demonstrate mastery by correctly answering 67% or more of the questions associated with the passage they read. This requirement is significant because it is a positive demonstration of comprehension mastery.
2. Students cannot look back at the passage as they are answering questions. This removes the “look-back” bias which, our studies show, can invalidate a comprehension measure’s validity. Not allowing the “look-back” often makes the test of comprehension more difficult for students who are accustomed to using this technique as a test-taking strategy (see Let’s Go Learn’s paper entitled “Silent Reading Comprehension Sub-test: Look-Backs and Reliability”).
Conclusions: The goal of the CCSS is to test students’ progressive readiness for college entrance, and DORA's Comprehension sub-test does just that. It is true that the Lexile bands returned by our assessment may occasionally appear lower than the CCSS-recommended Lexile bands. This is largely because our complex system of measuring test readability considers more than simply the Lexile level. The Lexile score reported by DORA is simply the readability level of our assessment texts as measured by MetaMetrics and does not consider the additional measures of text complexity employed by Let’s Go Learn.
To continue to provide teachers with the best tools for assessing students and placing them into effective reading instruction, Let’s Go Learn will now also offer a Lexile instructional range based on the highest Lexile level of the passage for which a student has demonstrated mastery.
Our CCSS alignment has been thoroughly vetted by reading experts, and arguably, our construct validity means DORA is more aligned to the CCSS goals than most assessments on the market in reading.