What is a Lexile?

While attending recent Proclamation 2014 vendor conferences, we heard many publisher representatives explain that their products included Lexile-based reading levels that adapted reading passages for readers at, below, or above grade level.  In this post we discuss Lexiles and how they may be used to adjust reading levels, as well as their limitations.

A Lexile is a widely-used reading measure developed by MetaMetrics that matches readers with texts that are appropriate in terms of their complexity.  A reader receives a Lexile measure by taking a test or participating in a program that assesses reading comprehension.  A text is assigned a Lexile measure through the application of a proprietary formula that considers sentence structure, vocabulary, and word frequency.  The idea being, that through the use of Lexiles, parents and educators may more easily match readers to texts that are appropriate in terms of their difficulty.  Lexiles , designated by “L”, range from 0L to 2,000L and are rounded to the nearest 10L.  A Lexile of 200L or below generally indicates a beginning reader and 1,700L and above generally indicates an advanced reader.

The Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy provide the following overlapping Lexile ranges as a grade-banded guide to appropriate text complexity:

CCSS Grade Band Lexile Band
K-1 NA
2-3 420L-820L
4-5 740L-1010L
6-8 925L-1185L
9-10 1050L-1335L
11-CCR* 1185L-1385L
Source: Supplemental Information for Appendix A of the CCSS for ELA and Literacy: New Research on Text Complexity; *CCR=College and Career Ready

 While a Lexile is a useful tool for assessing the complexity of a text, it does not provide any information about a text’s literary value or the age appropriateness of its content.  For example, many bodice-ripper romance novels are written using basic vocabulary and short, simple sentences. Such texts may have Lexile measures that are well within the range of many young readers. However, parents and educators would certainly want to consider such a novel’s content before including it on a reading list. Just because a student could read a text doesn’t mean a student should read a text.

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