Do I have your attention? Good. There are many reasons the above statement is true, but I want to pull one specific example of it from the Common Core Standards themselves (Appendix A specifically, if you'd like to check it out).
In order to adhere to the Common Core standards for text selection teachers and textbook publishers are to use a variety of measures when determining the difficulty level of any given text and suitability of said text in their classrooms.
Quantitative assessments such as the Lexile Framework can be used to assess a text and assign it a number using a preset algorithm including vocabulary use, word frequency, and sentence length.
Qualitative measures are then used in order to verify or override quantitative scores. In many widely distributed textbooks, these measures are analyzed by contractors, teachers, and publishing employees and subsequently published in the book itself as a reference guide for educators. One of the subcategories of predetermined qualitative measures laid out in the standards is Knowledge Demands.
For example, are the literary stories full of common experiences or experiences distinctly different from one’s own? Are the perspective(s) in the story like one’s own or in opposition to one’s own?
I am currently assessing a text for use in my own textbook series and I'm wondering how in the world I am supposed to gauge what experiences students I have not even met have had? How can textbooks possibly assign a rating, no matter how vague, and publish that assessment as though any teacher can simply assume a moderate rating for their students?
I can only imagine the following justifications are used so that textbooks can adequately assign a "High, Moderate, or Low" difficulty score next to a "Qualitative Text Complexity" assessment:
The above assessment criteria have been informally modified to ask "Are the experiences distinctly different from a straight, white, cisgender, middle-class child's experience?" and "Are the perspective(s) like that of a straight, white, cisgender, straight, middle-class student, or in opposition to that of a straight, white, cisgender, straight, middle-class student?"
This portion of the analysis is ignored altogether with the assumption that teachers will conduct an individual assessment for each student and the textbook is only publishing a difficulty rating in order to meet governmental common core standard demands so that they can advertise doing so and make publishers and school districts feel safe in their textbook selections.
I have made the decision to provide a disclaimer acknowledging that I have left this portion of assessment requirements out of my published ratings and will alternatively provide a narrative that provides insight as to who the text in question might help feel represented in the classroom.
What do you think? Is it best to simply leave this portion of the assessment out?