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Common Core and Fuzzy Wuzzy Complex Text Readability Formulas Part 2

Susan Notes: Delving deeper into what I started in Part 1.

Find Part 1 here

Part 2

Here's another way to look at the Coh-metrix system. I've added in other texts outside the CCSS recommendations just to provide some points of reference--real world reading as well as school-required reading. You'll note that just for the fun of it, Finnegans Wake is listed both forwards and backwards.

Text Grade Level (as determined by Flesch-Kincaid [in bold] and reported by Coh-metrix)
⢠(0.6) CCSS Grades K-1 Complexity Band Text Exemplar: Frog and Toad Together by Arnold Lobel
⢠(2.0) CCSS Grades K-1 Complexity Band Text Exemplar:Charlotte's Web by E. B. White [read aloud]
⢠(2.1) CCSS Grades 2-3 Complexity Band Text Exemplar: Sarah Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLahlan
⢠(2.3) CCSS Grades 9-10 Complexity Band Text Exemplar: The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
⢠(2.7) CCSS Grades 6-8 Complexity Band Text Exemplar: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
⢠(2.8) CCSS Grades 11 Complexity Band Text Exemplar: The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow
⢠(2.8) CCSS Grade 11 Complexity Band Text Exemplar: "Pardonerâs Tale" from Canterbury Tales
⢠(3.0) CCSS Grades 9-10 Complexity Band Text Exemplar: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
⢠(3.3) Ulysses by James Joyce
⢠(3.5) CCSS Grades 4-5 Complexity Band Text Exemplar: The Making of a Hurricane by Patricia Lauber
⢠(3.9) CCSS Grades 9-10 Complexity Band Text Exemplar: Gift of the Magi by O'Henry
⢠(4.2) CCSS Grades 4-5 Complexity Band Text Exemplar: Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbett
⢠(4.3) CCSS Grades K-1 Complexity Band Text Exemplar: Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder [read aloud]
⢠(4.6) CCSS Grades 6-8 Complexity Band Text Exemplar: "Letter on Thomas Jefferson" by John Adams
⢠(4.6) CCSS Grade 11 Complexity Band Text Exemplar: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
⢠(5.2) CCSS Grade 11 Complexity Band Text Exemplar: As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
⢠(5.9) CCSS Grades 2-3 Complexity Band Text Exemplar: So You Want to Be President by Judith St. George
⢠(6.0) CCSS Grades 9-10 Complexity Band Text Exemplar: The Story of Art by E. H. Gombrich
⢠(6.8) New Yorker blog, Andy Borowtiz, "G20 Ends Abruptly as Obama Calls Putin a Jackass"
⢠(7.3) CCSS Grade 11 Complexity Band Text Exemplar: Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
⢠(7.7) New York Times obituary
⢠(7.9) CCSS Grades 4-5 Complexity Band Test Exemplar: "Telescopes," The New Book of Knowledge by Colin A Ronan
⢠(8.0) CCSS Grades 6-8 Complexity Band Text Exemplar: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
⢠(8.0) New York Times wedding announcement
⢠(8.4) National Enquirer article
⢠(8.7) CCSS Grades Complexity Band Text Exemplar: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
⢠(8.7) Finnegans Wake by James Joyce
⢠(9.1) New York Times Maureen Dowd op-ed
⢠(9.2) New York Review of Books, "The Charms of Wikipedia," by Nicholson Baker
⢠(9.5) Finnegans Wake by James Joyce,text entered backwards
⢠(9.8) New York Times Tom Friedman op-ed
⢠(9.8) CCSS Grade 11 Complexity Band Text Exemplar: The Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell
⢠(10.0) New York Times Paul Krugman op-ed
⢠(10.0) CCSS Grade 8 Complexity Band Text Exemplar: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass
⢠(10.2) CCSS Grades 4-5 Complexity Band Text Exemplar: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
⢠(10.2) Bill Gates, Wall Street Journal version of annual letter
⢠(10.3) CCSS Grades 9-10 Complexity Band Text Exemplar: "Speech in the Virginia Convention" by Patrick Henry
⢠(11.0) CCSS Grades 9-10 Complexity Band Text Exemplar: "Letter from Birmingham Jail" by Martin Luther King, Jr.
⢠(11.5) New York Times Editorial on Common Core
⢠(11.8) Rolling Stone Matt Taibbi "The Great American Bubble Machine"
⢠(11.9) New York Times Garrison Keillor book review
⢠(12) CCSS Grades 9-10 Complexity Band Text Exemplar: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
⢠(13.5) CCSS Grades 9-10 Complexity Band Text Exemplar: Elements by Euclid
⢠(14.9) CCSS EngLA architects, David Coleman & Sue Pimentel, Huffington Post

Text Narrativity

â¢CCSS Test Exemplar: "Telescopes." The New Book of Knowledge (6%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: The Making of a Hurricane (16%ile)
⢠New York Times editorial on the Common Core (17%ile)
â¢CCSS EngLA architects, David Coleman & Sue Pimentel, Huffington Post (19%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: Crime and Punishment (22%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: The Great Gatsby (22%ile)

â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: The Book Thief (23%ile) â¢Bill Gates, Wall Street Journal version of annual letter (24%ile)
⢠New York Times Paul Krugman op-ed (29%ile)
⢠Rolling Stone Matt Taibbi "The Great American Bubble Machine" (31%ile)
⢠New York Times Garrison Keillor book review (31%ile)
New Yorker blog, Andy Borowtiz, "G20 Ends Abruptly as Obama Calls Putin a Jackass"
(37%ile) â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: The Tipping Point (38%ile
⢠Finnegans Wake (38%ile)
⢠Finnegans Wake (text entered backwards) (43%ile)
⢠New York Times obituary (43%ile)
⢠New York Times Maureen Dowd op-ed (44%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: As I Lay Dying (45%ile)
⢠New York Review of Books, Nicholson Baker,"The Charms of Wikipedia" (48%ile)
â¢Ulysses (52%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: Tuck Everlasting (57%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" (59%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: Gift of the Magi (64%ile)
â¢New York Times wedding announcement (65%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Examplar: Patrick Henry Speech in the Virginia Convention (65%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: The Making of a Hurricane (66%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: Euclid's Elements (66%ile)
â¢National Enquirer article (66%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: To Kill a Mockingbird (68%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: "Pardoner's Tale" from Canterbury Tales (68%ile)
â¢New York Times Tom Friedman op-ed (69%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: So You Want to Be President (73%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: The Book Thief (77%ile)
â¢CCSS Test Exemplar:The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (78%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: The Story of Art (81%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: The Grapes of Wrath (83%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: Sarah Plain and Tall (84%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: Charlotte's Web (84%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (84%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: Frog and Toad Together (86%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: John Adams "Letter on Thomas Jefferson": (89%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: The Secret Garden (91%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: Pride and Prejudice (93%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: The Adventures of Augie March (94%)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: Little House in the Big Woods (97%)

Syntactic Simplicity

â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: Euclid's Elements (2%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: To Kill a Mockingbird (10%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Examplar: Patrick Henry Speech in the Virginia Convention (14%ile)
â¢Rolling Stone Matt Taibbi "The Great American Bubble Machine" (17%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: The Secret Garden (19%ile)
â¢New York Times: Maureen Dowd op-ed: (20%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: Little House in the Big Woods(24%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: The Great Gatsby (26%ile)
â¢Finnegans Wake (text entered backwards) (26%ile)
â¢Finnegans Wake (28%ile)
â¢CCSS EngLA architects, David Coleman & Sue Pimentel, Huffington Post (28%ile)
â¢New York Times Garrison Keillor book review (28%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (29%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: Crime and Punishment (29%ile)
â¢New York Times editorial on the Common Core (34%ile)
â¢New York Times: Tom Friedman op-ed: (37%ile)
â¢New York Times: wedding announcement (42%ile)
â¢Bill Gates, Wall Street Journal version of annual letter (45%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: Pride and Prejudice (46%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: So You Want to Be President (49%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: The Tipping Point (50%ile)
â¢New York Times obituary (53%ile)
CCSS Text Exemplar: As I Lay Dying (53%ile)
â¢New York Review of Books, Nicholson Baker,"The Charms of Wikipedia" (55%ile)
â¢National Enquirer article: (56%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: The Story of Art (56%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Examplar: Gift of the Magi (63%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" (65%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: The Adventures of Augie March (66%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: The Making of a Hurricane (66%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: John Adams letter on Thomas Jefferson (69%ile)
â¢New Yorker blog, Andy Borowtiz, "G20 Ends Abruptly as Obama Calls Putin a Jackass" (69%ile)
â¢CCSS Test Exemplar: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer 75%ile
â¢New York Times Paul Krugman op-ed (76%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: Charlotte's Web (79%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: Tuck Everlasting (83%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: Grapes of Wrath (87%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (88%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: The Book Thief (88%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: Sarah Plain and Tall (91%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: "The Pardoner's Tale" in Canterbury Tales (91%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: Frog and Toad Together (94%ile)
â¢CCSS Test Exemplar "Telescopes." The New Book of Knowledge (94%ile)

Word Concreteness

â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: John Adams letter on Thomas Jefferson (2%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: Pride and Prejudice (3%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" (6%ile)
â¢New York Times Tom Friedman op-ed (6%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: The Secret Garden (19%ile)
â¢New York Times Paul Krugman op-ed (21%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: So You Want to Be President (22%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: The Story of Art (23%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Examplar: Patrick Henry Speech in the Virginia Convention (28%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: Euclid's Elements (33%ile)
â¢New Yorker blog, Andy Borowtiz, "G20 Ends Abruptly as Obama Calls Putin a Jackass" (36%ile)
â¢CCSS EngLA architects, David Coleman & Sue Pimentel, Huffington Post (28%ile) â¢CC Text Exemplar The Adventures of Augie March (38%ile)
â¢Finnegan's Wake (text entered backwards) (43%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (46%)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: "Pardoner's Tale" from Canterbury Tales (46%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: Crime and Punishment (47%ile)
â¢Rolling Stone Matt Taibbi "The Great American Bubble Machine" (53%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: Charlotte's Web (53%ile)
â¢CCSS Test Exemplar: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (54%ile)
â¢New York Times obituary (55%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: The Tipping Point (60%ile)
â¢Finnegans Wake (61%ile)
â¢New York Times Maureen Dowd op-ed (62%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: Gift of the Magi (62%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: The Making of a Hurricane (64%ile)
â¢New York Review of Books, Nicholson Baker,"The Charms of Wikipedia" (66%ile) â¢New York Times editorial on the Common Core (69%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: The Book Thief (70%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: Frog and Toad Together (76%ile)
â¢New York Times Garrison Keillor book review (79%ile)
â¢Bill Gates, Wall Street Journal version of annual letter (79%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: The Grapes of Wrath (81%ile)
â¢CCSS Test Exemplar: "Telescopes." The New Book of Knowledge (92%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: Sarah Plain and Tall (83%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: To Kill a Mockingbird (84%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: Tuck Everlasting(86%ile)
â¢New York Times wedding announcement (87%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: Little House in the Big Woods (91%ile)
â¢Ulysses (93%ile)
â¢National Enquirer article (93%ile) â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: As I Lay Dying (96%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: The Great Gatsby (99%ile)

Referential Cohesion

â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: The Story of Art (2%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: "Pardoner's Tale" from Canterbury Tales (2%ile)
â¢New York Times Paul Krugman op-ed (2%ile)
â¢Ulysses by James Joyce (2%ile)
â¢Finnegans Wake (2%ile)
â¢Finnegans Wake (text entered backwards) (2%ile)
â¢New York Times Maureen Dowd op-ed (2%ile)
â¢New Yorker blog, Andy Borowtiz,"G20 Ends Abruptly as Obama Calls Putin a Jackass" (2%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: The Great Gatsby (3%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: Crime and Punishment (3%ile)
â¢New York Review of Books, Nicholson Baker, "The Charms of Wikipedia" (4%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: Charlotte's Web (4%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: The Book Thief (4%ile)
â¢New York Times Garrison Keillor book review (4%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: To Kill a Mockingbird (5%ile)
â¢Bill Gates, Wall Street Journal version of annual letter (5%ile)
â¢Rolling Stone Matt Taibbi "The Great American Bubble Machine" (5%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: Tuck Everlasting (6%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: Gift of the Magi (6%ile)
â¢National Enquirer article (6%ile)
â¢New York Times obituary (7%)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" (7%ile)
â¢New York Times Tom Friedman op-ed (9%ile)
â¢New York Times wedding announcement (10%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: So You Want to Be President (11%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: John Adams letter on Thomas Jefferson (12%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: The Tipping Point (14%ile)
â¢CCSS Test Exemplar: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (16%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: Sarah Plain and Tall (19%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: The Making of a Hurricane (19%ile)
â¢New York Times Editorial on Common Core (20%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: The Grapes of Wrath (22%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: Pride and Prejudice (27%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: As I Lay Dying (27%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: Frog and Toad Together (30%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: The Adventures of Augie March (30%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Examplar: Patrick Henry Speech in the Virginia Convention (38%ile)
â¢CCSS Test Exemplar: "Telescopes," The New Book of Knowledge (40%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: The Secret Garden(55%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (68%ile)
â¢CCSS EngLA architects, David Coleman & Sue Pimentel, Huffington Post (76%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: Little House in the Big Woods (86%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar Euclid's Elements (100%ile)

Deep Cohesion

â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: The Making of a Hurricane (6%ile)
â¢Ulysses by James Joyce (10%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: So You Want to Be President (13%ile)
â¢New Yorker blog, Andy Borowtiz, "G20 Ends Abruptly as Obama Calls Putin a Jackass" (16%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: The Great Gatsby (17%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: As I Lay Dying (19%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: Gift of the Magi (20%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: Charlotte's Web (21%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: Tuck Everlasting (22%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: The Story of Art (23%ile)
â¢National Enquirer article (25%ile) â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: The Grapes of Wrath (32%ile)
â¢New York Times wedding announcement (32%ile)
â¢New York Times Garrison Keillor book review (35%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: Sarah Plain and Tall (38%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: Frog and Toad Together (39%ile)
â¢Rolling Stone Matt Taibbi "The Great American Bubble Machine" (41%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: The Book Thief (47%ile)
â¢CCSS EngLA architects, David Coleman & Sue Pimentel, Huffington Post (48%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (50%ile)
â¢CCSS Test Exemplar: "Telescopes." The New Book of Knowledge (51%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: Patrick Henry Speech in the Virginia Convention (52%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: The Tipping Point (55%ile)
â¢CCSS Test Exemplar: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (56%ile)
â¢Bill Gates, Wall Street Journal version of annual letter (57%ile)
â¢CCCC Text Exemplar: Crime and Punishment (61%ile)
â¢New York Review of Books, Nicholson Baker, "The Charms of Wikipedia" (66%ile)
â¢New York Times Tom Friedman op-ed (68%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" (74%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: The Secret Garden (75%ile)
â¢New York Times Editorial on Common Core (75%ile)
â¢New York Times obituary (76%ile) CCSS Text Exemplar: To Kill a Mockingbird (76%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: "Pardoner's Tale" from Canterbury Tales (79%ile)
â¢New York Times Maureen Dowd op-ed (81%ile)
â¢Finnegans Wake (82%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: The Adventures of Augie March (86%ile)
â¢Finnegans Wake (text entered backwards) (86%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: John Adams letter on Thomas Jefferson (90%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: Pride and Prejudice (93%ile)
â¢New York Times Paul Krugman op-ed (93%ile)
â¢CCCC Text Exemplar: Euclid's Elements (94%ile)
â¢CCSS Text Exemplar: Little House in the Big Woods (97%ile)

The Coh-metrix system isn't in wide use yet because it doesn't give one single measure for determining text 'level'; it does, in fact, force the user to consider various categories, even to think about them, weigh their importance for a given text and a given reader. Thinking is good. The problem is whether the numbers its computer analysis produces in those categories is worth a gluten-free, sugar-substitute, no-carb donut. At present, the Coh-metrix reliance on Flesch-Kincaid leads to the samegreat and obvious foolishness we saw with Accelerated Reader and Lexile, but the Referential Cohesion results also have conspicuous flaws. The analysis creators insist that a low score in referential cohesion indicates "little overlap in words and ideas between sentences," causing "the reader to make inferences, which can be challenging and even unsuccessful without sufficient prior knowledge." And look at who gets low scores: Paul Krugman, Maureen Dowd, Andy Borowitz, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Nicholson Baker, E. B. White, Garrison Keillor.

But professional writers, not wanting to use the same word in close proximity, employ what Fowler's Dictionary of Modern Usage perjoratively termed "elegant variation." Certainly Fowler cited ridiculous examples, but the fact is writers do look for synonyms instead of repeating a word. And Referential Cohesion looks at word repetition as a device to help reader comprehension. Remember their sample sentence: "When the intestines absorb the nutrients, the absorption is facilitated by some forms of bacteria." Coh-Metrix instructs:

The word "absorption" in the second clause refers to the event associated with the verb "absorb"in the first clause.
True. And I don't think many writers would try to come up with a synonym for "absorption" in the second clause. But remember: This is the way nonfiction writers explain things. This is one reason the Coh-Metrix formula works a whole lot better on nonfiction than fiction.

Let's take another look at Euclid.
CCSS Text Exemplar: Elements by Euclid CCSS Grades 9-10 Text Complexity Band Coh-Metrix Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level: 13.5 (College) Narrativity: 66%ile Syntactic Simplicity: 2%ile Word Concreteness: 33%ile Referential Cohesion: 100%ile Deep Cohesion: 94%ile
Since Referential and Deep Cohesion refer to repetition of words and ideas, it is not difficult to see why Euclid's prose rates so high in these categories:
On a given finite straight line to construct an equilateral triangle. Let AB be the given finite straight line. Thus it is required to construct an equilateral triangle on the straight line AB. With centre A and distance AB let the circle BCD be described; again, with centre B and distance BA let the circle ACE be described; and from the point C, in which the circles cut one another, to the points A, B let the straight lines CA, CB be joined . . . .
All that repetition of "straight line."

But "Narrativity?" Coh-Metrix describes Narrativity as being "more story-like," adding that "More story-like texts are typically easier to understand. Maybe it's the "lets" and "thuses." The warning light here is low Syntactic Simplicity, which Coh-Metrix cautions may mean the sentences "have more clauses and more words before the main verb. Complex syntax is harder to process." Lots of clauses before you get to the "lets."

And then there's the 100% in Referential Cohesion, the only text I found with that score. Coh-Metrix says High Cohesions mean "there are relatively more connecting words to help clarify the relationships between events, ideas, and information." You can decide how helpful the "thus," "with," and "in which" are in making sense of Euclid.

You should also decide whether the Common Core architects, having drunk the text complexity formula Kool-Aid and are bent on inflicting such "connecting words" on eight-year-olds, are ed reform missionaries worth following--or crackpot experimentalists without a clue about books or the children who read them.

Text analysis system promoters seem intent on finding the Moneyball of school reading matter. In baseball, the sabermetric approach eschews conventional wisdom, devaluing such long- revered statistics as Batting Average and even Runs Batted In. I don't advocate throwing out consideration of length of words and sentences and even Deep Cohesion, but evidence shows that the deep metric of reading in schools is human.

We need for the people in charge of reading in our schools to love words themselves more than they love counting those words. Just because IBM's Watson can process some 60 million pages of text per second and won at Jeopardy; just because Google's self-driving car drove itself from San Francisco to Los Angeles; just because the da Vinci robotic system has performed more than a million surgical procedures; just because Bill Gates has an obscenely large bankroll--we're still a long way from evidence that data determinism should triumph in the schoolhouse.

Quoting Tallyrand, it is worse than a crime; it's a mistake to mandate that just because computers are better at formulizing nonfiction and presenting those formulas as numbers, 70% of a high schooler's reading must be nonfiction. Education reformers are putting all their eggs in the basket of what is easiest to measure, using measurement to create errors--and labeling it science. Teaching professionals must ask if they are willing to be party to this, and the public must ask if this is what they want for their children.

That said, the analysis topics provided by Coh-Metrix are interesting and maybe even of some potential value to teachers, certainly of more value than looking at an Altos or Lexile score. Older students' own writing can be informed from taking a look at the skeleton undergirding professionals' writing.

When teaching rhetoric to very reluctant engineering students at RPI, I set them the task of making a statistical analysis of sentence variety in different texts (How sentences begin, where the verb is, and so on). They brought in statistics on everything from Playboy to their physics text to an address by the college president (whose plodding style caused hoots of laughter from students who had created a template for text comparison). But anybody who takes even a casual glance at the autopsy of the prose of a favorite writer sees that necropsy never touches on what makes prose inform, amuse, inspire, and sometimes sing. In the Half-Life of Facts, Samuel Arbesman reports that "Medical knowledge about cirrhosis or hepatitis takes about forty-five years for half of it to be disproved or become out-of- date." Surgeons report a similar time frame, summing up an aphorism by British neurologist John Hughlings Jackson, "It takes 50 years to get a wrong idea out of medicine, and 100 years a right one into medicine."

No one has estimated the half-life of education reforms emanating from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the National Governors Association, and the U. S. Department of Education, but it is clear that, whether it's six months or 50 years, our children--and their grandchildren--canât afford the Common Core computerized delivery system which promises pedagogical Global Positioning Satelite devices and curriculum field apps as science.

Think of a few of the Ig-Noble science winners of 2013. An Ig-Noble joint prize in biology and astronomy feted the discovery that when dung beetles get lost, they can navigate their way home by looking at the Milky Way. The public health prize went to recommended techniques for restoring amputed penises--except in cases where the penis had been partially eaten by a duck. The Probability Prize went to a study making two related discoveries: First, that the longer a cow has been lying down, the more likely that cow will soon stand up; and second, that once a cow stands up, you cannot easily predict how soon that cow will lie down again. I propose to the authors that next they think about the longer a third grader is required to sit with complex text, the more likely he is to fall out of his chair, tattle on a classmate, or vomit. How long do we have to wait for the Ig-Noble judges to award Common Core Text Complexity research with the recognition it deserves?

I nominate Coh-Metrix and its Lexile and Accelerated Reader cousins for the Ig-Noble science award I want to report that I've read a lot of learned articles on text complexity, studied lots of CCSS exemplar texts, expanded my search to other texts, always looking for one more connection. Hands down (does this count as a linking word establishing textual relationships, both referentiall and deep?), my favorite resource comes from entering a question: "What is Lexile range?" in a DuckDuckGo search. Answer.com provided hot links to a number of expected sites plus two unexpected destinations: "Chart of Normal Estrogen Levels for Women" right next to "Determine a Book's Reading Level," "Slide in [electric] Range Downdraft," and "Normal Range Blood Sugar Levels."

At least the other charts do no harm.

— Susan Ohanian

2014-06-04


INDEX OF RESEARCH THAT COUNTS


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