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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:

  1. Use quantitative measures to assign a text to a grade band.
  2. Use qualitative measures to locate a text within a specific grade band.
  3. 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. 

Finding Common Core Grade Levels for Texts: Quick Reference Chart

Quick reference chart for converting leveling systems such as Lexile and Flesch-Kincaid into Common Core grade bands.

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Finding Common Core Grade Levels for Texts: Guide to Online Tools

Step-by-step guide to accessing free, online tools that help identify the appropriate grade band for a text.

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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.

Finding CCSS Grade Levels for Texts: SCASS Rubrics

Rubrics for evaluating the qualitative features of text complexity

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Finding CCSS Grade Levels for Texts: Qualitative Scales

Scales for evaluating the qualitative features of text complexity

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Lesson Planning from Text Complexity

These tools help teachers use analysis of text complexity to guide their lesson planning.

What Makes This Read Aloud Complex (K-2)

1-pg handout to help teachers analyze the complexity of read aloud texts for grades K-2.

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What Makes This Text Complex

1-pg handout to help teachers analyze the complexity of texts for grades 2-12.

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Generating Questions from Qualitative Dimensions of Complexity

1-pg handout to help teachers write high-quality questions based on the elements of text complexity.

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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.

Webinar on finding texts: "Hidden Resources at Your Fingertips"

This webinar from Metametrics and SAP, shows how to find texts at different levels of complexity using online databases.  

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Nonfiction Passages and Collections from Readworks

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. 

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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.

CCSS Appendix A on Text Complexity

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.

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Supplement to Appendix A

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.

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Measures of Text Difficulty

A research study of text analysis tools that measure text complexity quantitatively. 

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Vocabulary and the Common Core

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

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Which Words Do I Teach and How?

2-pg article providing guidance on vocabulary instruction by David Liben. Excerpted from "The Significance of Vocabulary in the Common Core State Standards." 

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Why Complex Text Matters

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.

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Reading Between the Lines: What the ACT Reveals about College Readiness in Reading

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. 

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The Progression of Reading Comprehension

Policy paper for educators and researchers about the key components of fostering reading comprehension. By David Liben and P. David Pearson.

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Advancing Our Students' Language and Literacy: The Challenge of Complex Texts

Excellent article about text complexity by Marilyn Adams in American Educator magazine

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