Text Complexity

The Standards’ Approach to Text Complexity

To help redress the situation described above, the Standards define a three-part model for determining how easy ordifficult a particular text is to read as well as grade-by-grade specifications for increasing text complexity in successive years of schooling (Reading standard 10). These are to be used together with grade-specific standards that require
increasing sophistication in students’ reading comprehension ability (Reading standards
1–9). The Standards thus approach the intertwined issues of what and how students

A Three-Part Model for Measuring Text Complexity
As signaled by the graphic, the Standards’ model of text complexity consists of three equally important parts.
(1) Qualitative dimensions of text complexity.

In the Standards, qualitative dimensions and qualitative factors refer to those aspects of text complexity best measured or only measurable by an attentive human reader, such as levels of meaning or purpose; structure; language conventionality and clarity; and knowledge demands.

(2) Quantitative dimensions of text complexity.

The terms quantitative dimensions and quantitative factors refer to those aspects of text complexity, such as word length or frequency, sentence length, and text cohesion, that are
difficult if not impossible for a human reader to evaluate efficiently, especially in long texts, and are thus today typically measured by computer software.

(3) Reader and task considerations.

While the prior two elements of the model focus on the inherent complexity of text, variables specific to particular readers (such as motivation, knowledge, and experiences) and to particular tasks (such as purpose and the complexity of the task assigned and the questions posed) must also be considered when determining whether a text is appropriate for a given student.  Such assessments are best made by teachers employing their professional judgment, experience, and knowledge of their students and the subject.


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One Response to Text Complexity

  1. What level of text complexity should your students be able to successfully navigate? Once you know a starting point, how will you stretch their abilities and background knowledge to both improve their current status and then raise the bar? What role does level of questioning play in this analysis? How much of this analysis can be turned over to the student? In what ways can all subjects support student growth in literacy skills?

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