Literacy Defined

Skill Progressions in West Virginia College- and Career-Readiness Standards for English Language Arts The following pages contain the skill progressions found in the West Virginia College- and Career-Readiness Standards for English language arts (ELA). In ELA, each grade level consists of 41 standards; these standards have been organized in K-12 order to show the advancing rigor and complexity of the expectations for what students should know, understand, and be able to do. This document is intended to be a resource that fosters and supports discussion among teachers as they look at the vertical alignment found within the standards that creates a meaningful progression of skills toward college- and career-readiness

All West Virginia teachers are responsible for classroom instruction that integrates content standards, learning skills, and technology tools. WV College- and Career-Readiness Standards for English Language Arts encompass four domains: reading, writing, speaking/listening, and language. Integrating standards effectively from each of these domains provides students with a meaningful context and authentic purposes for learning. One way to integrate the four domains is to shape lessons around complex texts and then ground writing, speaking/listening, and language experiences in the texts themselves as well as in the themes or topics of the texts being studied

All teachers play a vital role in designing and delivering instruction that helps students to think, learn, and communicate with complex texts. Each content area or discipline offers a unique way to create, communicate, or evaluate information (ILA, 2015). These different stances toward knowledge

lead disciplinary experts to read differently. For example, mathematics experts must read each word very carefully because misreading even one word can change the meaning of what they read and lead to mistakes or incorrect answers. However, historians often work to interpret the past using incomplete and/or conflicting texts which means they must read beyond the individual words on the page and make inferences based on the author’s perspective, the time period the text was written, and whether or not any other texts provide the same or similar information (ILA, 2015). With these differences in mind, teachers in each discipline should use the kinds of literacy instruction that best fit the modes of thinking and communication in that particular field of study.

Text Complexity

Becoming a college- and a career-ready reader doesn’t happen overnight. To develop college- and career-ready reading skills, students need to work with a range of increasingly complex texts over the course of their school years.

To support the need for students to work with increasingly complex texts each school year, the WV College- and Career- Readiness Standards for English Language Arts define the Lexile range goals for each programmatic level in the section titled “Text Complexity Expectations”. Specific grade level expectations are defined in Standards 18 and 19.

Text Complexity

Despite steady or growing reading demands from various sources, K–12 reading texts have actually trended downward in difficulty in the last half century. Gary L. Williamson (2006) found a 350L (Lexile) gap between the difficulty of end-of-high school and college texts—a gap equivalent to 1.5 standard deviations and more than the Lexile difference between grade 4 and grade 8 texts on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Although legitimate questions can be raised about the tools used to measure text complexity (e.g., Mesmer, 2008), what is relevant in these numbers is the general, steady decline—over time, across grades, and substantiated by several sources—in the difficulty and likely also the sophistication of content of the texts students have been asked to read in school since 1962.

Current trends suggest that if students cannot read challenging texts with understanding—if they have not developed the skill, concentration, and stamina to read such texts—they will read less in general.  As Adams (2009) puts it, “There may one day be modes and methods of information delivery that are as efficient and powerful as text, but for now there is no contest. To grow, our students must read lots, and more specifically they must read lots of ‘complex’ texts—texts that offer them new language, new knowledge, and new modes of thought.

Measuring Text Complexity: Three Factors

Qualitative evaluation of the text: Levels of meaning, structure, language conventionality and clarity, and knowledge demands.

Quantitative evaluation of the text: Readability measures and other scores of text complexity such as a Lexile score.

Matching reader to text and task: Reader variables (such as motivation, knowledge, and experiences) and task variables (such as purpose and the complexity generated by the task assigned and the questions posed).

The Lexile Framework for Reading matches reader ability and text complexity, allowing individualized monitoring of progress. There are two Lexile® measures: the Lexile reader measure and the Lexile text measure. A Lexile reader measure represents a person’s reading ability on the Lexile® scale. A higher Lexile reader measure represents a higher level of reading ability on the Lexile scale. A Lexile reader measure is usually obtained by having the reader take a test of reading comprehension. A Lexile text measure represents a text’s diffi­culty level on the Lexile scale. Lexile measures are based on two well-established predictors of how difficult a text is to comprehend: semantic difficulty (word frequency) and syntactic complexity (sentence length). When used together, they can help a reader choose a book or other reading material that is at an appropriate difficulty level. The Lexile reader measure can also be used to monitor a reader’s growth in reading ability over time.

An Introduction to the Lexile Framework for Reading (06:03 minute video)

The Lexile Framework for Reading: Addressing Text Complexity and College- and Career- Readiness (18:28 minute video)