Anchor standards one and ten are closely linked. Standard one asks children to read closely in order to determine what the text is saying – explicitly as well as implicitly. Standard 10 focuses on the range of reading and level of text complexity.
It has been said that standards one and ten can be considered the supports of a ladder while standards two – nine are the rungs of the ladder. These two standards can also be considered the “running records” used to track student growth and progress through levels of complexity.
Two measures used to determine the complexity of a text are qualitative, quantitative. Qualitative measure include deepening levels of meaning, textural structure, language, and demands of prior knowledge. Quantitative measures focus on word length, number of words per page, sentence length, frequency of words – things that are more easily counted and less subjective. The CCSS also gives some consideration to the reader and to the reader’s motivation. This is important, but according to the authors of Pathways to the Common Core: Accelerating Achievement is under-developed.
There are many methods currently being used in schools to determine text complexity and although they are not necessarily supported by the CCSS (mostly because they cannot be used for very high level texts, thus did not meet the “college and career ready requirement”), they are still a valid means of determining complexity.
Appendix A of the CCSS ELA provides more information on how the levels of complexity were developed. Appendix B provides Grade Band Exemplar Texts that the CCSS regard as sufficient. This seems to be an area that is more difficult to understand since the CCSS writers have shifted from well-know books to classic books. The corresponding grade levels are also difficult to follow and do not seem to correlate with what teachers understand as age appropriate or grade appropriate texts. Many of the publishing dates in the list of books in this resource are in the 1940’s and 50’s. It is difficult to know why this shift occurred. Could it be the preferences of the writers? I don’t know.
Once thing that may be helpful however, is to use the new Lexile Ranges developed by the CCSS regardless of which system for determining complexity is used.
If you don’t have a current method of determining the difficulty and complexity of a text you might consider using one of the following: