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Leveling Criteria

Reading A-Z's leveling criteria are designed to accurately and reliably measure text complexity to support differentiated instruction. Our leveling system follows the guidelines for determining text complexity as outlined in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The Standards call for an evaluation of student reading materials in three areas of text complexity.


The Common Core Model of Text Complexity


Qualitative measures
Qualitative measures are text attributes that can only be evaluated by a human reader. These include factors such as the author's purpose, the levels of meaning, structure of the text, language conventions, language clarity, knowledge demands, and the complexity and importance of visual devices.

Reading A-Z's leveling criteria take into account the following qualitative measures:
  • Predictability of text
  • Text structure and organization
    • Logical nature of organization
    • Text and feature distractions
    • Labeling and reader supports
  • Illustration support
  • Infographics
    • Complexity
    • Text reliance on
  • Knowledge demands
    • Concept load
    • Familiarity of topic (common everyday vs. unfamiliar)
    • Single vs. multi-themed
    • Intertextual dependence


Quantitative measures
Quantitative measures are statistical measurements of text. These include factors such as average sentence length, number of syllables per word, and the total number of different words.

Reading A-Z's leveling criteria take into account the following quantitative measures:
  • Total word count
  • Number of different words
  • Ratio of different words to total words
  • Number of high frequency words
  • Ratio of high frequency words to total words
  • Number of low frequency words
  • Ratio of low frequency words to total words
  • Sentence length
  • Sentence complexity


Consideration of the reader and the reading task
Consideration of the reader and the reading task is the final component of text complexity as outlined in the Common Core Standards. Each reader brings different skills, background, and motivation to the act of reading. For example, a student who is interested in the topic of a particular book is likely to bring more background knowledge to the reading task and to be motivated to learn more about the subject.

Reader and task considerations are something teachers must evaluate for themselves. No leveling system can encompass these considerations because they depend upon the circumstances of each student in relation to each particular book at the time of reading. Fortunately, because the Reading A-Z leveling system evaluates the qualitative and quantitative criteria accurately and reliably, teachers are freed up to focus their energy and attention where they are most needed – on the reader and task considerations that affect their individual students.