Construct and Models

What does the Lexile Framework for Oral Reading Framework measure?

The Lexile Framework for Oral Reading includes two measures:
  • Student measures (Lexile oral reading measure)
  • Passage measures (Lexile oral readability measure)

The Lexile oral reading measure indicates a student’s ability to read passages aloud fluently and accurately. The measure evaluates how well a student can decode and identify words by sight to read passages fluently. The readability of the passage read aloud is also factored into the Lexile oral reading measure.

The Lexile oral readability measure of a passage estimates the oral reading challenge presented by the text. For reading comprehension, we talk about “text complexity”, but for oral reading, we talk about “text readability”. Six features of the text, including those that measure word characteristics and others that address sentence characteristics, are used to determine the text’s Lexile oral readability measure.

Often, for oral reading, teachers are trained to measure the students’ WCPM (the number of words read correctly per minute). Teachers use WCPM to check whether students are on track with their oral reading, by referring to norms tables such as Hasbrouk and Tindal. Lexile student measures provide a useful supplement to WCPM because they incorporate the difficulty (i.e. readability) of the text read, which produces a more accurate oral reading measure.

As students progress through the grade levels, they are given grade-level text to read, which means that the text gets harder to read. This, in turn, affects students’ WCPM, as they read slower with harder text and faster with easier text. The Lexile OR scale overcomes this problem.

The main benefits of the Lexile OR framework are:
  • It is a scale, and can be used to track students’ growth over time.
  • It can be used by publishers to level Oral Reading texts.
  • It can be used to select more challenging or less challenging texts for students.
  • When both Lexile OR measures and Lexile reading comprehension measures are available for a student, it can be used to compare their performances and understand where students are stronger, relatively speaking.

Where does oral reading fit in the five pillars of reading?

In the National Reading Panel’s (NRP) influential report published in 2000, the 5 pillars of reading are:
  • Phonemic awareness (i.e., awareness of sounds, such as segmenting words and rhyming)
  • Phonics (i.e., being able to sound out letters, letter combinations and words)
  • Reading fluency
  • Vocabulary
  • Comprehension

Students must master the first two (phonemic awareness and phonics) in order to be able to read fluently. Once they have mastered fluent reading, they can focus their attentional resources on higher-order skills such as retrieving the meaning of words (vocabulary) and text comprehension.

Oral reading provides a way to monitor student progress in developing fluency. Building a student’s reading fluency helps build their reading comprehension by freeing cognitive resources that would otherwise be focused on low-speed word recognition and punctuation.

According to the NRP, fluency consists of three subskills: fluent readers can read text with:
  • Speed
  • Accuracy
  • Expression (e.g., timing, phrasing, emphasis, and intonation)
Note: Most oral reading assessments do not explicitly measure Expression. Although there are descriptors available for Expression (e.g. NAEP), most teachers and tests focus on the first two, i.e. Speed and Accuracy. The Lexile Oral Reading framework also measures speed and accuracy but not expression. (At some point in the future, we may provide an Expression score alongside a student’s Lexile OR measure.)

Students can read fluently in two ways: reading silently or reading out loud. If students read silently, it is difficult to assess how fluently they are reading! So, we ask them to read aloud for a minute or two; that way, we can observe their fluency skills directly.

What is the relationship between oral reading and silent reading comprehension?

The first is that reading fluency (note: oral reading is how we assess reading fluency) is a necessary step toward efficient reading comprehension. A student will never be good at reading comprehension if they don’t read fluently (i.e., if they don’t process the text on the page and convert it into words they can sound out) and with automaticity. So, oral reading measures are a very useful way to monitor student progress toward silent reading comprehension as students develop decoding and rapid word identification skills.

The second is that oral reading fluency is used to predict reading comprehension, particularly in the lower grade levels. Assessing reading comprehension is quite time-consuming (e.g., 20 to 30 minutes), whereas assessing oral reading can take 2 or 3 minutes. Scores from the two tests usually correlate at around 0.75 in grades 1 through 4. Decades of research support the close connection between oral reading and silent reading, with oral reading being a very strong predictor of students’ silent reading ability (e.g., Downey, Lam, and Van Moere, 2012; Fuchs, Fuchs, & Maxwell, 1988; Reschly, Busch, Betts, Deno, & Long, 2009; Ridel, 2007).

The reason that comprehension and fluency are closely related is that, as readers increase their fluency, they free up cognitive resources from decoding and word identification and can devote them to making meaning and comprehending text.

What is the relationship between the Lexile oral readability and the Lexile text measure for a text?

Although these two measures use many of the same features to determine a text’s Lexile measure and are highly correlated, they were developed with different measurement goals, so they sometimes produce different Lexile measures for the same text. The Lexile text measure addresses the comprehension challenge a student will likely face when reading a text regardless of how efficiently the student reads. The Lexile oral readability measure addresses the challenge a reader will face in accurately and efficiently identifying words and reading sentences aloud.

During the research phase in the analyzers’ development, the importance of each feature in predicting oral reading or silent reading challenge was examined. The most important features are given more weight in producing the final Lexile oral readability or text measure. For example, the number of syllables in a word is one of the word features used by both analyzers. During analyzer development, research showed that the number of syllables affected oral reading challenge more than silent reading challenge, so this variable is given more weight in the calculation of a text’s Lexile oral readability measure than it is for its Lexile text measure. In addition, there are several features unique to each analyzer that contribute to differences between oral readability and text measures.

Most important, the Lexile oral readability measure is intended to measure short passages for use in oral reading assessment and practice. These short passages are typically 50-300 words long. The oral readability analyzer should not be used to measure longer texts such as complete short stories or chapter books.

How is the oral reading scale related to the silent reading scale?

The Lexile measures for oral reading and the Lexile measures for silent reading are reported on the same scale—the Lexile scale. The Lexile scale is a developmental scale so student growth can be monitored across years. In addition, because both measures are reported on the Lexile scale, they can be compared. For example, if a student has a higher measure in oral reading than silent reading, it means that their oral reading skills are more advanced than their silent reading skills.

What features determine the Lexile oral readability measure for a passage?

The Lexile oral readability analyzer examines six different features of the passage when determining its oral readability measure. They include within-word level, word level, and sentence level features to capture the overall challenge of reading a text aloud.

The within-word features include:
  • Word decoding demand
  • Syllable count
  • Predictability of the sound-symbol relationship of the words in the passage (e.g., loop is more predictable than teach, which is more predictable than true)
The word-level features include two features that measure how likely a reader is to know the meaning of a word:
  • Age of acquisition
  • Word rareness
The sixth feature used by the analyzer is:
  • Log mean sentence length. Longer sentences are often more complex and challenging for students to read aloud.

When evaluated during the development of the Lexile oral readability measure, these six features were the most effective in predicting how well students could read a passage orally.

Can the Lexile oral readability analyzer be used to measure books?

Keep in mind that the Lexile oral readability analyzer is intended to measure short texts that students will read aloud. While short books may be appropriate for this use, longer books are not. If you are interested in the Lexile oral readability of a book, pick a short section (e.g., 200 words) that students will read aloud and measure that section only. Although the Lexile oral readability for the measure will not represent the oral reading challenge for the whole book, the section measure will help determine whether the specific section measured is appropriate for oral reading practice at the desired level.