Despite some early critics who questioned its growing use, the Lexile Framework for Reading, a reading comprehension program that measures both the difficulty of a text and individual reading ability, is becoming a popular tool for evaluating and teaching reading by educators around the country.
In an interview with PW, Malbert Smith, cofounder along with A. Jackson Stenner of MetaMetrics, the company that developed the Lexile Framework, said that the company has assigned a lexile level to more than 100,000 titles of all categories from all kinds of publishers. Smith said that 15 million to 20 million k—12 students around the country have had their reading ability tested and assigned a lexile level.
With the growing acceptance of the Lexile Framework, Smith said the company is focusing more of its resources on marketing. As part of that effort, the company has redesigned its Web site (www.lexile.com) to provide a variety of information about the company as well as to provide specific information about the Lexile Framework. MetaMetrics also sponsored a national reading conference this June that brought together 400 prominent educators in Dallas.
The core of the program is the Lexile analyzer, a software application that analyzes any kind of text, then assigns the text a numerical measurement called the Lexile rating, which indicates the difficulty or readability of the text.
The Lexile rating, Smith explained, is also calibrated to virtually every important state and national standardized test (the SAT, Iowa History Test and others). Student scores on the tests can be used to determine the students' Lexile reading level—and can then be used to help teachers match books to a reader's abilities.
MetaMetrics is a privately held company, and Smith said the firm was profitable. Revenues come from publishers' fees for analyzing texts and for the right to use the Lexile ratings. National and state testing agencies also pay for the right to translate their scores into the lexile ratings. Publishers can pay MetaMetrics to analyze their books (prices ranges from roughly $100 for a single book to $50 per book for multiple titles) or do it themselves through a password-protected logon (roughly $25 to $75 per book based on number of titles).
Expansion plans call for MetaMetrics to launch the Quantile Framework for Mathematics in September, a new program that will offer ratings of math material and student abilities much like the Lexile Framework. And the company has reached an agreement with SpeakESL (www.speakesl.com), a company that uses voice recognition and text-to-speech technology to teach English. More than 500,000 Japanese students learning English are now using SpeakESL and Lexile ratings.
Smith acknowledged that the Lexile ratings have some critics and are "not a panacea for reading instruction. In our missionary zeal, we may have oversold it. But it's a technology that can assist academics and parents. It's a tool for educators who understand how to use it."