Lexile Scores

Lexile scores are becoming a popular way to rank books.  Rather than simply guessing by book size, or reading the jacket cover, the lexile score is supposed to tell you the approximate grade level that the book would be most appropriate for.  Our school district has started pushing MAPS testing, and after taking the Reading portion of the test, the student is assigned a Lexile range.  They can also print out a list of books that are appropriate for the student’s reading ability.

I thought this sounded fantastic.  When I first administered the MAPS test to students, I saw that it seemed to be a pretty accurate judge of the students reading ability.  Without looking at the lexile portion, I relied on the RIT score, which seemed to have a strong correlation to the student’s own grade in my English classroom.  However, the more I started to look at the Lexile score, the more I started to wonder about it.

I started looking around at lexile scores. Content is not as important as vocabulary and word choice.  A quote: “ The Lexile Framework measures a text by analyzing sentence length and word frequency.”  For example, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe has a lexile score of 940L.  A book in the same genre, sort of, would be LOFR: The Fellowship of the Rings, which scores only 860L.  I don’t think that anyone would claim that J.R.R.Tolkein is an easier read than C.S.Lewis, even if they did like to hang out together in the same pub.  The Lexile scoring doesn’t take into account allegory, or difficulty of concepts, or basic content.  You can’t use Lexile at all to determine a poem’s difficulty, but somehow they still rank Dr. Seuss’s books.

Unfortunately, there doesn’t really seem to be a better system available.  There are any number of simple tools that a parent or educator can use, but none of them can really determine if a child really wants to read a book.  And THAT makes more difference than anything.

I am the language lover, and these are my thoughts. 

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7 Comments

  1. renaissanceguy said,

    September 18, 2007 at 5:21 am

    Wow! This is a somewhat new concept for me, although we did some kind of textual analysis in graduate school that was similar.

    I doubt there’s a good way to do this except the old fashioned way, which is to have teachers and librarians making personal recommendations to students based on their knowledge of the books.

  2. ken k said,

    March 10, 2008 at 5:38 pm

    what does lexile have to do with RIT scores? I have really been puzzled about this for a while now. What the heck does RIT stand for?
    I wish we could just stick to one measurement…

  3. languagelover said,

    March 10, 2008 at 6:40 pm

    Lexile scores are basically a separate score from RIT. I’m not actually sure what it stands for, but it’s part of the MAPS testing program. Here’s what the program says about it:
    A RIT score is a number that indicates a student’s instructional level. Students get an overall RIT score at the end of a Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) assessment or Achievement Level Test (ALT). In addition, RIT score ranges are reported for each goal area of a test.

    RIT scores show how a student performed on the test on the particular day the student took it. Scores are reported with an associated confidence band, or standard error of measure. If the student were to immediately retake the test under the same conditions, the confidence bands shows the range in which the student would be likely to perform.

    I think the reason we can’t stick to one measurement, especially with Language Arts, is that we haven’t found one that works right, yet. Lexile scores, for example, are only a little bit accurate. It uses vocabulary and sentence length to determine the score. Subject matter does not affect it. So, I can describe a graphic rape scene in my novel, but as long as I use short sentences and easy words, it will be given a Lexile score for a 4th grader.

    In the end, all of these are just tools to help understand where a student needs more help. If we give the numbers more weight than that, we are doing them a disservice.

  4. Aaron said,

    September 25, 2008 at 8:56 pm

    I Personally took the MAPS test, and was ranked at a 1380 to a 1530 lexile range, but i even searched the official lexile website, and still can’t find a book that sounds mildly interesting in my range. so i’ll stick to fantasy books ranked between 600 and 1000, since i can’t seem to find one scored higher than that.

  5. September 25, 2008 at 9:11 pm

    Fantasy books often are ridiculously ranked by these companies. I used your score, Aaron, and found this book:
    http://www.lexile.com/findabook/BookDetails.aspx?bookID=11095
    It’s a great book…if you are five.
    Lexile rankings are ridiculous. I don’t think they really bother with ranking fantasy/sci fi because it’s not good enough for them. I feel your pain as I love a good fantasy novel as well. Even if it’s considered 4th grade level. 😀

  6. TigresseBlanca said,

    November 3, 2008 at 5:15 pm

    how can I, asan adult, test to find my lexile score? As an child I read well above my grade level. My 2nd grader has tested as a 545 lexile score. I want to find what the testing is, so I can help her more. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  7. November 3, 2008 at 6:04 pm

    As far as I know, lexile scores all come from taking standardized tests, so an adult could go to an Adult Learning Center and take a test, but it would probably cost something.

    As far as helping her, 545 is still a little above average (2nd-3rd grade). The score is determined by vocabulary and comprehension questions on a standardized test. My advice if you want her to be a better reader is to read with her every day. There’s really nothing better. However, Lexile.com gives some vocabulary builders that you could work on if you wanted:
    http://www.lexile.com/DesktopDefault.aspx?view=ed&tabindex=2&tabid=16&tabpageid=183


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