I just read this in a technology e-newsletter I get:
"The Arizona Department of Education has inked a deal with MetaMetrics to link the state's "Instrument to Measure Standards" (AIMS) to the Lexile Framework for Reading. The agreement will impact about 500,000 students in grades 3 through 8 and grade 10 beginning in the 2007/2008 school year"
For the lucky, uninitiated among you, lexiles are supposed to measure a text's difficulty and are used in leveled reading programs to, as their slogan proclaims "Match Readers to Text." Grade levels are assigned to lexile score ranges. Visitors to their website can search the database for the lexile score for a particular book.
Just for fun, assign these titles a grade level:
2. Midsummer Night's Dream
3. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
4. The Outsiders
5. The Giver
6. Memoirs of a Geisha
7. The Bad Beginning
Answers further down. . . . . .
The titles are already listed in ascending order. Stargirl and MND are tied at 590 (3rd grade); Sisterhood - 600 (also 3rd grade); Outsiders - 750 (4th grade); Giver - 760 (5th grade); Memoirs - 1000 (6th/7th grade); BB - 1010 (7th/8th grade); Hatchet - 1020 (7th/8th grade); Hamlet - 1390 (college junior/senior)
The scary thing is that I did not pick and choose, listing only the most ludicrously inappropriately "leveled" titles. There are the only titles I searched. This is matching readers to text? Readers waiting 4-5 years before enjoying or appreciating The Bad Beginning, Hatchet or Hamlet? Third graders reading Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants? The Giver may be appropriate at the word, sentence, and plot level for 5th graders, but even students in later grades struggle with, sometimes even rebel at, the ambiguity of the ending.
A contrast: I just finished reading Nancie Atwell's The Reading Zone. If Arizona really wanted to make an impact on a half-million kids, the Department of Education should buy every English/language arts/reading teacher a copy and should also make sure each teacher has an adequate classroom library. Nancie wields some authoritative studies to back up her basic assertion that giving time and choice is the surefire way to skilled readers who continue to read. (remember Mark Twain's quote?)
If you're looking to match kids with texts, scroll down the Kids Recommend page on her school's website and you will find an impressive array of authentically challenging and enriching reading, all nominated by the students and updated each year.
If the Arizona Department of Education officials were especially perceptive, I'd also suggest they buy those teachers a subscription to Voices from the Middle for Kim Ford's Student to Student book reviews and Teri Lesesne's column Books for Young Adolescents.
But I know it's a pipedream. If education officials were that wise, they'd never "ink" deals like this in the first place.