Monday, July 15, 2013

Work Place Readiness for Today's Teachers?

I was working on a proposal for a conference tonight, casting about for an idea that might warrant being selected for the conference and I landed on an idea that's been rolling around in my head for a while.

At present I work for the Center for College and Career Readiness; I say "at present" because I've been informed my status will be changing from full-time to contractor in the near future, so I'm anticipating further changes and possibilities, including the possibility of independent consulting. But I mention the Center because all day long we think about and talk about what it means for students to be college and career ready. Much of the work we do is professional development focusing on helping districts and schools implement Common Core Standards or, in those states where "Common Core" is verboten, College and Career Readiness.

K-12 educators are worried about student reading levels, math skills, literacy capabilities, and more. And with good reason. Expectations are raised with Common Core. 

I'm going to address Lexiles, but only at a very high level. Lexiles. Lexiles are a quantitative measure of reading. Each reader can have a measured Lexile or reading level; each book can be analyzed to determine
its Lexile level. For teachers, the sweet spot is matching the reading level of the reader and the book. You
can get a lot more information at the MetaMetrics site, but I want to focus just a bit on what's causing so much consternation among K-12 educators. As you look at the chart, you'll see that, for example, 1010L is the top of the Lexile band for 8th grade. With Common Core, 1010L is the top of the Lexile band for 5th grade. Big difference, so it's fairly to understand why teachers are so anxious. If they currently have a 5th grader reading at a 3rd level, it's entirely possible that once Common Core is fully implemented, that student will be reading at no more than a 2nd grade level.

Educators are talking about being ready for the gap--that mythical space that exists with the change in Lexile levels. And yes, teachers need to get ready for that gap. As they implement Common Core, their incoming students could start two or three reading levels behind where they were at the end of the 2012-2013 school year. So educators have to plan for the gap, and how they are going to help students read at the grade-appropriate level.

Now, for those of you huffing and puffing about the change and how unfair it is, let me send you
here and show you the following chart. You'll see the Lexile levels for textbooks along the y axis. The pink or fuschia color represents 8th grade textbooks. Based on this chart, 4th grade textbooks are at about a 750 Lexile, which is fine for today based on the Lexle chart. But 4th grade textbooks used to be at a nearly 900 Lexile.

There could be a lot of reasons for the drop, but Common Core or College and Career Readiness reading levels are being pushed back up to where they were between World War I and the end of World War II.

That's not even the idea that's been rolling around in my head for a while because I've been working with educators on these very things of text complexity and Lexile levels for about a year now. Here's my big "uh oh" question: What if classroom teachers are feeling so much concern and even downright panic because they cannot read well at the new Lexile levels? We've all seen letters from educators with terrible spelling and horrific grammar errors. We know there are teachers who seem barely literate and probably are barely literate. But what if part of the problem for us being able to make sure our students are college and career ready is that our teachers are not?

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