The Common Core State Standards’ Quantitative Text Complexity Trajectory: Figuring Out How Much Complexity Is Enough

Mar. 01, 2013

Source: Educational Researcher, 42(3): 59-69. March 2013.

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) set a controversial aspirational, quantitative trajectory for text complexity exposure for readers throughout the grades, aiming for all high school graduates to be able to independently read complex college and workplace texts.

However, the trajectory standard is presented without reference to how the grade-by-grade complexity ranges were determined or rationalized.
Furthermore, little guidance is provided for educators to know how to apply the flexible quantitative text exposure standard in their local contexts.

The authors extend and elaborate the CCSS presentation and discussion, proposing that decisions about shifting quantitative text complexity levels in schools requires more than implementation of a single, static standard.

This article proposes a rigorous two-part analytical strategy for decision making surrounding the quantitative trajectory standard.

First, borrowing methods from student growth modeling, the authors illustrate an analytical method for creation of multiple trajectories that can lead to the CCSS end-of-high-school target for text complexity exposure, resulting in trajectories that place greater burden for shifting text complexity levels on students in different grades.

Second, the authors submit that knowledge of the multiple possibilities, in conjunction with a set of guiding principles for decision making, can support educators and policy makers in critiquing and using the CCSS quantitative standard for text complexity exposure to establish particular expectations for quantitative text complexity exposure for particular students in situ.

Updated: Sep. 16, 2013