Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies

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A comparison of text difficulty in systemic assessment using Lexile theory

Karen Roux, Nangamso Mtsatse, Caroline Long


In South Africa, the use of systemic assessments is controversial, raising issues of fairness. However, an argument can be made that they yield valuable insights into the current levels of literacy and education in the country. National systemic assessments are used to gauge scholastic progress across schools and provinces, while international tests provide some measure of comparability across countries. This article investigates the Lexile® Framework for Reading as an educational tool for gauging the reading difficulty of texts used in national and international assessments conducted in South Africa. The results of the Lexile analyses showed that the reading difficulty of the Annual National Assessments (ANA), conducted in 2014, varied between grades and did not match the same grade level in the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS). We argue that by using the Lexile framework during the designing phase of assessment, and selecting texts that are level appropriate for the learners, the assessment process may be enhanced.

AJOL African Journals Online