professornana (professornana) wrote,

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Number Drama

Act I

Any episode of Band Stand ( for those of you too young to remember Dick Clark's show) had a "Rate the Record" segment. Audience members Listened to a new song and then had the chance to assign it a rating, "Well, I guess I'd give it an 82. I liked the song but it was kinda hard to dance to."

Act II

The Dead Poet's Society scene where Robin Williams comments on the Introduction to Poetry for the textbook: "Excrement! That's what I think of Mr. J. Evans Pritchard! We're not laying pipe! We're talking about poetry. How can you describe poetry like American Bandstand? 'I like Byron, I give him a 42 but I can't dance to it!'"


On to Amadeus ( Salieri is telling Mozart that the reason his latest work has failed is that it has too many notes.

I hope you have enjoyed this little drama. Numbers are not the way we should be evaluating or assessing art. And yet. And yet. The Lexile Police march on. Reading levels determine placement of books in the hands of readers.

As a bit of a thought experiment, I entered the titles of the National Book Award longlist titles for Young People's Literature. Here are the results. I am listing the books from lowest level and Lexile to the highest.

Nimona 3.1 350 L
X: A Novel 4.0 HL580L
Simon vs, the Homo Sapiens Agenda 4.4 HL640L
Walk the Earth a Stranger 4.8 740 L
Bone Gap 4.9 HL810L
The Thing about Jellyfish 5.0 740L
Challenger Deep 5.5 HL800LMost Dangerous (no RL avail) 890L
Symphony for the City of the Dead (no RL avail) 990L
This Side of Wild 6.6 1210L

Additional information that might demonstrate how fallacious this whole numbers system is include the grade ranges for these Lexile numbers:

300 K-1
500 2-3
600 2-5
700 2-5
800 4-5
900 6-9
1200 CCR (college and career ready)

The grade ranges and Lexile levels are meaningless to someone like me who has actually READ the books. And they should be rendered useless to everyone. These numbers do not even give me a clue about potential readership. I would not hand Nimona to a 3rd grader nor Bone Gap to a 5th grader. And I do think the Paulsen book (This Side of Wild) is accessible to a much younger audience.

Why do we not rise up and with a single voice declare that this emperor has no clothes?
Tags: idiocies, levels, lexiles
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