Re: Defining Readability Levels

Subject: Re: Defining Readability Levels
From: Ronni Geist <ronni -at- GEISTWRITERS -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 3 Apr 1998 13:02:50 -0500

Barb -

You pose an interesting question:

"Why isn't the 7th grade level defined as what most
"average" 7th graders read?"

And your analogy about adjusting the reading scores to reflect this --
much as JC Penney's has changed their sizing charts -- is an interesting
one. Yet, in many ways, we already have made some adjustments.

The standardized tests indicate that the overall reading level of our
nation is not where one might expect it to be -- that is, most high
school graduates aren't reading at the 12th grade level or higher.
However, instead of changing the test scale, we have lowered our
standards and expectations. That's why most of us are not writing at the
12th grade level. Rather, we have adjusted downward to accommodate the
masses, and we write at the 6th or 7th or 8th grade level.

(BTW, as an aside -- have you ever tried to write at length on the 12th
grade level? I had several assignments (non-technical writing) at the
12th, 14th, and 16th(!) grade levels -- and let me tell you, they were

Back to the subject...

Heidi, hope you don't mind if I quote you; you said it really well:

"I think we would be doing ourselves a great disservice by
advocating lowering the readability standards just because
we're not currently living up to them."


Ms. Ronni Geist
Director, Editorial Services
ronni -at- geistwriters -dot- com


> Barb Ostapina wrote:
> >If so many ordinary adults don't read past the 7th grade level, how is it
> >that the 7th grade level came to be defined as such? (Or the 8th grade
> >level, or the 10th...) I realize it has to do with numbers of words,
> >syllables, sentences, etc., but that's not what I mean. What I mean is,
> >could it be that the standards used to define the variables that equal
> >grade 7 are just plain not representative of current reality?
> <snip>
> >It makes me think about JC Penney (a department store with catalog
> >shopping, for those not familiar). A few years ago they decided, I
> >presume, that too many women were offended by having to order clothes in
> >size 14-16. So they adjusted their sizing, and what used to be 14-16 became
> >10-12, 10-12 became 6-8, etc. I imagine it made a lot of women happy to now
> >be a smaller dress size. What the heck, everything's relative. Why not
> reading scores, too?

Heidi Martin wrote:
> Barb,
> Although I understand the sentiment (and the reality of being more busy
> than you'd ever think you could handle), I think we would be doing
> ourselves a great disservice by advocating lowering the readability
> standards just because we're not currently living up to them. When my
> children are in 7th grade, I hope they read at that level. The same for
> 10th, 12th, and, hopefully so on...I don't want to JCPenney-ize their
> education just because our schools aren't doing a good job of teaching
> our kids how to READ.
> However, I don't have a problem with writing my instructional manuals at
> the 8th grade level, as I try to do. The audience for these manuals is
> global, and not everyone speaks (or reads) English as their first
> language. I cannot assume an educational level above the 8th grade,
> either.
> Just MNSHO,
> Heidi Martin

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