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Questions and Answers About Reading in the English / Language Arts Common Core State Standards

download_pdf_smThe English Language Arts (ELA) Common Core State Standards (CCSS) have outlined reading expectations for grade levels that are somewhat different from what most teachers have been accustomed to using. The main goal is to promote more rigor and allow necessary scaffolding to take place to ensure all students are college and career ready.

How much informational text should be included in instruction?

In past practices, educators used literature as the primary medium for reading instruction. The new expectations require a balance between literature and informational text at elementary levels, which then transition to more informational text than literature at the secondary levels.  The new percentage recommendations are as follows:

[table] New Percentage Recommendations
K-5 grades:   50% literature and 50% informational text
6-8 grades:   45% literature and 55% informational text
9-12 grades:   30% literature and 70% informational text

ELA teachers can expect support from teachers in science, social studies, and technical subjects now that specific ELA standards are included for reading and writing in those subject areas. Incorporating these and other content areas provides ELA support outside the ELA classroom.  It reinforces shared responsibility across all disciplines through instruction of the informational text found in the various subjects.  If students enter the workforce or attend college following high school graduation, the majority of the reading they then encounter is also informational text. The hope is for future graduates to be better prepared than those of the past, regardless of the pathway they choose.

What are the new Lexile level recommendations?

In addition to the change in the balance between literature and informational text, there has also been an adjustment in the recommendation of the Lexile range for grade bands. The realignment, developed by MetaMetrics, was necessary to make sure reading levels increased at a rate to allow all students to be college and career ready by the end of their high school experience.

The following table shows Lexile level changes for each grade band.


Grade Band, Current Lexile Band, “Stretch” Lexile Band

K-1, N/A, N/A

2-3, 450L-725L, 420L-820L

4-5, 645L-845L, 740L-1010L

6-8, 860L-1010L, 925L-1185L

9-10, 960L-1115L, 1050L-1335L

11-CCR, 1070L-1220L, 1185L-1385L


The lexile level referenced as current was from the 2009 ELA publication.  The “stretch” Lexile Band is the new recommendation as mentioned in Supplemental Information for Appendix A of the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy: New Research on Text Complexity.

Students are expected to read and comprehend text within the “stretch” Lexile range for their grade level text-complexity band. There is some flexibility, with the goal that students will be at the upper end of the Lexile level toward the completion of the corresponding grade band.

What should be considered when selecting material for a grade level?

Lexile levels shouldn’t be the only measure for selecting reading materials.   Indeed, the complexity of a text is actually determined through a three-way data analysis of quantitative, qualitative, and reader and task considerations.

Qualitative measures include the different levels of meaning, text structure and organization, language clarity, and demands from the student’s prior knowledge.   All of these are measured by a reader, which can be viewed as subjective.

Quantitative measures are considered objective because they are evaluated electronically by computer software. The software evaluates a text’s word length, frequency, difficulty, sentence and text length, and text cohesion.

Finally, educators use their own professional judgment when making reader and task considerations. The complexity of a text varies for students because it is intended to be personalized. Individual student motivation, background knowledge, and prior experiences are rarely the same for all students, and different student abilities add another variable.

To ensure text complexity is included within instruction, a specific grade band is referenced by Standard 10 of the ELA CCSS for both literature and informational text.

Is there a quick reference available for grade level examples?

Appendix B of the ELA CCSS suggests text exemplars for reading material of both informational and literary text.  Lexile.com is another source showing various text titles with an assigned Lexile level.  Keep in mind, these are just suggestions; other pieces of reading can also be included when considering the three-way data analysis of text complexity.

How can students still be challenged when reading at the high end of a text complexity band?

If a student is reading above the recommended grade level or at the high end of the Lexile level, it may be difficult to find challenging literature while keeping the content developmentally appropriate. Use of literature with multiple levels of meaning is one way to keep the reader engaged at a higher level.  A satire is an example.

Another way to keep the rigor high is by utilizing informational texts from other disciplines. Incorporating science, social studies, and technical subjects can support those specific contents while pushing the reader to higher levels of vocabulary and under-standing.  Students are frequently required to analyze charts and graphs in this material, which can also challenge the reader to employ a higher level of comprehension.