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Text Complexity Collection
Rather than focusing exclusively on literacy skills, the Common Core State Standards set expectations for the complexity of texts students need to be able to read to be ready for college and careers. To choose texts that are on grade level for the CCSS, use three steps:
- Use quantitative measures to assign a text to a grade band.
- Use qualitative measures to locate a text within a specific grade band.
- Use professional judgment to decide how suited a text is for a specific instructional purpose with a particular set of students.
This collection includes tools to help with each step and research to support teachers' understanding of text complexity.
For additional text complexity tools, visit CCSSO’s Navigating Text Complexity.
Quantitative Tools to Measure Text Complexity
To decide if a text is on grade level for the Common Core State Standards, start here. These tools quickly identify the grade band for a text.
Step-by-step guide to accessing free, online tools that help identify the appropriate grade band for a text.
Qualitative Tools To Measure Text Complexity
After identifying the grade band for a text, use these tools to determine its specific grade level and what features will make it challenging for students.
Rubrics for evaluating the qualitative features of text complexity
Scales for evaluating the qualitative features of text complexity
Lesson Planning from Text Complexity
These tools help teachers use analysis of text complexity to guide their lesson planning.
Detailed, step-by-step guide to preparing, implementing, and assessing close reading lessons by veteran educator David Liben.
1-pg handout to help teachers analyze the complexity of read aloud texts for grades K-2.
1-pg handout to help teachers analyze the complexity of texts for grades 2-12.
1-pg handout to help teachers write high-quality questions based on the elements of text complexity.
Resources to Find Texts
Finding text of grade-level complexity is an important task for literacy teachers in all subjects. The resources below help teachers to find appropriate texts.
This webinar from Metametrics and SAP, shows how to find texts at different levels of complexity using online databases.
Website of science and social studies texts and text-dependent questions. Organized by grade (K-6) and topic. ReadWorks partners with teachers to advance reading comprehension.
Text Complexity Research and Articles
Text complexity is central to the Common Core State Standards for ELA / Literacy. This collection includes both academic research on text complexity and practical articles to help teachers select and use complex texts in their classrooms.
Research demonstrating that while the complexity of reading demands for college and careers have risen over the past 50 years, the complexity of texts students are exposed to has decreased.
New research on text complexity. Offers the official grade band ranges to use for text complexity, along with explanations of how to measure using the three parts of the text complexity triangle.
A research study of text analysis tools that measure text complexity quantitatively.
Vocabulary research paper and 4 practice exercises for teachers, coaches, and school leaders to use in PD or self-teaching on vocabulary instruction with the Common Core
2-pg article providing guidance on vocabulary instruction by David Liben. Excerpted from "The Significance of Vocabulary in the Common Core State Standards."
Essay on ACT research finding that the ability to read and understand complex text is the best way to distinguish students who are college and career ready from those who are not. Article by David Liben.
Based on data gathered from ACT results, this report focuses on steps to improve reading skills among high school students. Specifically, the findings suggest that the biggest performance driver is the student's ability to comprehend complex texts.
Policy paper for educators and researchers about the key components of fostering reading comprehension. By David Liben and P. David Pearson.
Excellent article about text complexity by Marilyn Adams in American Educator magazine
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