I had an eye-opening experience once during a faculty meeting. (Sounds like the start of a good joke, right?) But, I’m sure mine wasn’t the revelation the presenter had intended. You see, she was reporting on reading scores, comparing our students’ gains with “the average” 100 Lexile points per year.
Here’s the rub. Ours was a middle school. While gains around 100 Lexile points may be typical for grades 3-5, reading progress slows with age. By middle school, the average Lexile increase is closer to 70 points per year.1 Although our students had grown more than twice as much as expected by mid-year, in the eyes of that administrator—and everyone else in the meeting that day–their achievement was little better than average. Rather than affirming the approach teachers were using, the news cast a shadow over it.
This incident underscores how important it is to have a realistic objective in mind for student growth. It factors into decisions about placement, instructional pacing, and which educational materials and methods to use. It’s simply impossible to gauge the effectiveness of teaching–or student achievement, for that matter–if you’re using the wrong performance measure.
Realistic Reading Goals
Some of you may be fortunate enough to have a computer-based program to assess student reading levels and set individual goals for each child. Unfortunately, some teachers are simply given a state test score with the goal of having every student—regardless of their current reading level–meet or exceed a threshold deemed “proficient” for that grade. In such cases, it’s up to the teacher to map out accelerated growth targets for students already at or near proficiency. Also, while we all hope students reading below grade level will catch up to their peers by year’s end—is that goal realistic? Achievable goals are a lot more likely to motivate (not frustrate) students.
I’ve rounded up some resources to help you set your own student reading goals this year. Use them to create individual growth plans, confirm your reading program’s objectives, or further educate your students, parents, or colleagues (whomever they may be).
Lexile Growth Forecaster (Online Tool)
Type in a student’s current Lexile, grade, and specified dates and this online calculator will generate their projected reading growth through high school. This chart is useful for showing students and parents how their progress compares with peers. Unfortunately, it does not generate specific Lexile targets.
Growth Expectations – Setting Achievable Goals (Professional Paper)
Use the tables in this comprehensive guide to identify a specific year-end Lexile target based on a student’s fall score and grade level.
Reading Level Correlation Chart
While the Lexile framework is one of the most widely used, it’s certainly not the only reading measure. I’ve found this chart helpful for making “conversions” among different frameworks.
What is Typical Growth?
In the same way children’s heights and growth rates vary, so do their reading levels. The most accurate projections take into consideration a student’s grade and initial reading level. That said, it is possible to make some generalizations. MetaMetrics, the company behind Lexiles, offers these snapshots of typical year-to-year growth.
“What is Expected Growth?” White paper from MetaMetrics, Inc. (2006)
“Aligning the Journey With a Destination” White paper from The Lexile Framework for Reading (2006) –Data points interpolated from Figure 2
There are also two important trends consider. First, students at lower Lexile levels tend to grow more than students in higher ranges. Second, annual growth appears to slow significantly in secondary grades. The table below, from a professional paper collaboratively authored by Scholastic and MetaMetrics, more accurately depicts typical growth since it incorporates these differences.
|“Growth Expectations: Setting Achievable Goals” Professional paper by Scholastic Research and MetaMetrics (2011)|
Where generalizations must be made, the most accurate growth targets can be charted by averaging the actual Lexiles for the class or student body in question, and projecting growth typical for their grade and proficiency zone.
I wanted to involve students in setting their own reading goals and tracking their progress toward them. So, I created these forms. They take a middle-of-the-road approach–using the average growth for different proficiency bands at each grade level. I also included a stretch goal. It underscores the idea that greater growth is directly tied to greater effort since stretch points are directly linked to additional practice. 2-5
I hope you find all this helpful and informative as you meet your new students, set goals for this year, and map out a plan for achieving them.
1 Williamson, Gary L. (2006). What is Expected Growth? Retrieved from http://cdn.lexile.com/m/uploads/whitepapers/WhitepaperWhatisExpectedGrowth_09.pdf
2 Renaissance (2018, January 23). The Magic of 15 Minutes: Reading Practice and Reading Growth Retrieved from https://www.renaissance.com/2018/01/23/blog-magic-15-minutes-reading-practice-reading-growth/?utm_source=school-leaders-now&utm_medium=featured-article&utm_campaign=guide-to-reading-growth
3 Reading Plus (2014, April). Research Brief Retrieved from https://www.readingplus.com/impact-of-reading-plus-on-middle-school-students-reading-proficiency-scores-2/
4 Achieve3000 (2014). National Lexile Study 2013-14 Retrieved from http://www.collegecareer.org/resources/intervention/2013-14_NationalLexile.pdf
5 Newsela (2018, February 4). Best Practices: Two Quizzes a Week for High Reading Gains Retrieved from https://blog.newsela.com/blog/2018/2/4/best-practice-two-quizzes-a-week-for-high-reading-gains