CAN READABILITY FORMULAS BE USED TO SUCCESSFULLY GAUGE DIFFICULTY OF READING MATERIALS?
Article first published online: 18 NOV 2013
© 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Psychology in the Schools
Volume 51, Issue 2, pages 198–215, February 2014
How to Cite
Begeny, J. C. and Greene, D. J. (2014), CAN READABILITY FORMULAS BE USED TO SUCCESSFULLY GAUGE DIFFICULTY OF READING MATERIALS?. Psychol. Schs., 51: 198–215. doi: 10.1002/pits.21740
- Issue published online: 10 JAN 2014
- Article first published online: 18 NOV 2013
A grade level of reading material is commonly estimated using one or more readability formulas, which purport to measure text difficulty based on specified text characteristics. However, there is limited direction for teachers and publishers regarding which readability formulas (if any) are appropriate indicators of actual text difficulty. Because oral reading fluency (ORF) is considered one primary indicator of an elementary aged student's overall reading ability, the purpose of this study was to assess the link between leveled reading passages and students’ actual ORF rates. ORF rates of 360 elementary-aged students were used to determine whether reading passages at varying grade levels are, as would be predicted by readability levels, more or less difficult for students to read. Results showed that a small number of readability formulas were fairly good indicators of text, but this was only true at particular grade levels. Additionally, most of the readability formulas were more accurate for higher ability readers. One implication of the findings suggests that teachers should be cautious when making instructional decisions based on purported “grade-leveled” text, and educational researchers and practitioners should strive to assess difficulty of text materials beyond simply using a readability formula.