MyReadingLab educator study measures Lexile levels in developmental reading courses at Rock Valley College

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MyReadingLab educator study measures Lexile levels in developmental reading courses at Rock Valley College

Key Findings

  • By completing reading exercises and diagnostics in MyReadingLab, students improved their Lexile level from an average of 148L in the lowest level developmental reading course, to an average of 112L in the upper level developmental reading course.
  • Roughly half of students improved their Lexile level 100L or more, and 81 percent improved their Lexile level by 1L or more.

School name
Rock Valley College, Rockford, IL

Course name
Developmental reading (three levels): Basic Reading Skills (080); Essentials of Reading (096); Reading for Academic Purposes (099)

Course format
Face-to-face (with varying computer lab time).

Course materials
Reading 080: MyReadingLab; Reading for Life by Fennessy
Reading 096: MyReadingLab; Reading in Action by Wintner
Reading 099: MyReadingLab; customized text

Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016

Results reported by
Mary Flynn, Mary Sieracki, Cheryl Rinker


Rock Valley College is a comprehensive two-year community college, offering more than 100 courses for transfer, career programs, and certificates. Rock Valley College was created by district-wide referendum in 1964, after a two-year study established the need for a community college in the area.

  • Credit students: 7,400 annually
  • Non-credit students: 25,000+ annually
  • Population served by district: 340,000+
  • Average age of students: 25
  • Degree programs offered: 30+
  • Courses for transfer offered: 100+

About the Courses

Developmental courses in reading are intended for those students who are not quite ready academically for college level courses, determined by their scores on placement testing. These courses are housed in the adult education department. Three full-time faculty teach the courses as well as a few adjunct instructors.

To meet the demands of college-level reading, developmental reading courses offer opportunities for students to build background knowledge, improve vocabulary, and build study skills and test-taking abilities. Upon successful completion, students will be ready for college-level courses. There are three levels of courses; each level is one semester (16 weeks) in length:

  1. Basic Reading Skills (RDG 080) helps students improve their reading skills to the level necessary for entrance to Reading 096. Emphasis is on vocabulary development, comprehension, and study strategies. (Five credit hours; annual enrollment ~40)
  2. Essentials of Reading (RDG 096) is intended to help students improve their reading skills to the level necessary for entrance to Reading 099. Emphasis is on improvement of vocabulary, comprehension, study strategies, and time management. (Four credit hours; annual enrollment ~120)
  3. Reading for Academic Purposes (RDG 099) emphasizes the development of reading strategies to enhance the comprehension and critical thinking of college-level material. Topics include vocabulary development, extracting implied meaning, drawing conclusions, and analyzing college texts. (Four credit hours; annual enrollment ~250)

Challenges and Goals

We have tried different assessment tools in our program, but we were looking for a tool that could help satisfy our assessment needs as well as teach supplemental reading skills to students outside of the classroom. We are not “a workbook class” and rather teach reading skills through the lens of reading academic texts. However, we still want to make sure students have access to reading skills instruction without taking away from class time—MyReadingLab fills that gap. We chose to use the comprehensive version MyReadingLab because it offers skills-based instruction across multiple levels as well as Lexile reading passages for students at varying levels of reading ability.

We were looking for a tool that could help satisfy our assessment needs as well as teach supplemental reading skills to students outside of the classroom.

We were looking for a tool that could help satisfy our assessment needs as well as teach supplemental reading skills to students outside of the classroom.


Each course uses a different level of the comprehensive version of MyReadingLab. Reading 080 uses the Introductory level (R2); Reading 096 uses the Intermediate level (R3), and Reading 099 uses the Advanced level (R4). A coordinator course is used for each level to facilitate the retrieval and exporting of grades across sections at one time.

There are slight variations across when and how MyReadingLab work is due across sections, but the following summarizes our general implementation: Within the first two weeks of class, students are taken to a computer lab to create an account with MyReadingLab, get oriented, and take the Path Builder diagnostic for the Reading Skills portion. The Path Builder (pre-test) and corresponding Mastery Check (post-test) are customized to only cover the topics assigned. Both tests have been reduced from 40 to 25 questions in length to match the reduced topic coverage. The following week, students go back to the computer lab to receive guidance on how to work on Reading Skills topics. Generally, Reading 099 students will meet two times in the lab, Reading 096 students will meet about four times in the lab, and Reading 080 students will meet four to six times in the lab. It is up to the discretion of each instructor to determine what is best for his/her students. Some sections are fortunate to have a section that meets in a computer lab.

Students alternate each week between working on Reading Skills and Reading Level assignments in MyReadingLab.

Reading Level

Students take the Lexile Locator (the diagnostic for the Reading Level portion) outside of class time Our goal is for students to complete eight to ten Lexile readings (one reading = exercise + diagnostic) per semester. Students choose their own readings. Students receive credit for their score on the Lexile diagnostic for each reading. If students do more than what is required, they may receive extra credit.

Reading Skills

Topics in MyReadingLab are assigned simultaneously when students are covering the same content in their textbook. Each course covers the same five Reading Skills topics in MyReadingLab (Active Reading, Vocabulary, State Main Idea, Implied Main Idea, and Supporting Details) in addition to one or two optional topics. Students have two attempts to take each topic post-test and get credit for their highest score. Students also receive points for their best practice score (out of three attempts). Students complete the Reading Skills Mastery Check during class time in the computer lab. At one point, we had allowed students to take the Mastery Check outside of class, but found the completion rates dropped significantly. This is why we have students take it during class time.

Selected Best Practices

  • “Every Monday I give students their MyReadingLab assignments which are due by midnight on Sunday. I don’t create hard due dates in the MyLab, but I list homework due in the announcements area of MyReadingLab so students know exactly what they should be working on. Every Friday I use the “Email by Criteria” feature in MyReadingLab to email my students and remind them of homework due. (I ask students to use their personal email instead of their school email address because I think they check this more often.)” –Cheryl Rinker
  • “I show students the “View progress” button in the Reading Level section so they can see a chart of their changing Lexile scores. Seeing the visual encourages some students to read more.” –Mary Flynn
  • “I take time at midterm and at the end of the semester to go over Lexiles with each of my students.  Students really love this and can tangibly see that they are improving. Often a few students, usually ESL students, ask if they can continue doing Lexile work over the summer which shows they value the work.” –Mary Sieracki
  • “Many English as a Second Language students don’t have prior knowledge or experience with certain topics they may read about in MyReadingLab. I like to spend a little time “unpacking” the topics before students start their MyReadingLab work.” –Cheryl Rinker
  • “One of the important skills students need to develop to be successful in college is time management. Because MyReadingLab work must be completed outside of class time, students need to figure out how to schedule it into their day. If they don’t have internet at home, they need to find a computer lab. Assigning work in MyReadingLab gives students an opportunity to work on their time management skills.” –Mary Flynn


(Varies by instructor and course level)
  • 15–25% MyReadingLab
  • 25–50% Homework
  • 25–40% Tests and quizzes

Results and Data

The Lexile Framework is a scientific way to match readers with text using the same scale. Recognized as the standard for matching readers with texts, Lexile measures connect learners of all ages with resources at the right level of challenge. Lexile measures provide a clear way to monitor progress toward college and career readiness.

Reading Level work helps us see how much students are improving their Lexile level each semester. Average initial and final Lexile measures were tracked for three semesters, as well as average Lexile change. See Figure 1 for a breakdown by course. We also looked at the percent of students improving their Lexile level by any number of points, as well as students who improved their Lexile by at least 100 points. See Figure 2 for a breakdown by course.

Table 1 shows that, on average, students met the target of eight to ten Lexile readings in each course level, and in Reading 080, students are completing more than the required amount.

Average Lexile levels, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, and Spring 2016 Combined

Figure 1. Average Lexile Levels, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, and Spring 2016 Combined, Reading 080 (n=48); Reading 096 (n=172); Reading 099 (n=361)

Percent of students improving Lexile level

Figure 2. Percent of Students improving Lexile Level One Point or More; Percent of Students Improving Lexile Level 100 Points or More, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, and Spring 2016 Combined; Reading 080 (n=48); Reading 096 (n=172); Reading 099 (n=361)

Average Lexile diagnostics completed and average score

Table 1. Average Number of Lexile Diagnostics Completed and Average Score of Lexile Diagnostics Spring 2015, Fall 2015, and Spring 2016 Combined; Reading 080 (n=48); Reading 096 (n=172); Reading 099 (n=361)

The Student Experience

A few years ago, more of our students struggled with using technology, but lately, students are becoming more tech-savvy. We are seeing fewer non-traditional students and more in their late teens and early twenties, and these students are very comfortable with computers. Also, all developmental math courses at Rock Valley use MyMathLab which has the same layout as MyReadingLab, so students are often already familiar with how to navigate the program. Finally, since we now use MyReadingLab more regularly throughout the semester, students don’t have time to forget how to use the program.

The following quotes were selected from recent end-of-semester course evaluations to share real-life students’ experiences using the program:

Reading 099:

  • “MyReadingLab is great. I like the layout of it and the stories they use for the Lexiles; they always seem to catch my interest. It definitely helped me in improving the many aspects MyReadingLab has to offer when it came to main idea, vocab, and supporting points.”
  • “MyReadingLab is a new and efficient way to learn and to complete assignments. It’s good because it’s all online. No textbooks, no notebooks, just a single computer. Since MyReadingLab is on the computer, it is easy to answer questions about the topic. You are only a few clicks away from the internet. MyReadingLab did help me learn and understand the source material. The web page is set up nicely for easy navigation throughout the site.”
  • “I had a great experience using MyReadingLab. A great thing that MyReadingLab contains is the Lexiles. The Lexiles helped me practice reading more and testing my understanding. (It was a great opportunity for me due to English not be my first language). Also the Lexiles gave me the opportunity to choose topics that I wanted to learn about. Definitely using MyReadingLab helped me to become better reader, understand how to find the main idea, supporting points, and increase my vocabulary.”
  • “In the beginning of the first semester, I had no idea what MyReadingLab would be about. Turned out, it was just about testing your skills as a reader. What I enjoyed about MyReadingLab was the Lexiles. It showed the level you started off at and how much you’re progressing. I also enjoyed choosing the topic of what type of article I read. I’m not sure my reading skills improved a whole lot with the use of MyReadingLab, although it did teach me to pay closer attention to the topic and main ideas.”

Reading 096:

  • “MyReadingLab has improved my reading skill more effectively. I improved on how to find main ideas and understand what I’m reading, and I also know how to find the meaning of a new vocabulary. Before I went to college, I used a translator such as Google Translate with low accuracy that made a lot of mistakes for my assignment, now I feel more confident and don’t use it as much.”  
  • “MyReadingLab helped me out a lot this semester. I feel like I have become a lot stronger and faster reader than I was before I started the class. When I read now I have a better understanding what I am reading, and it’s more interesting when you get to read stuff on a variety of topics.”    
  • “Learning about the main idea and supporting details was helpful because I realized a lot of the time I couldn’t pick out the main idea. After doing exercises in MyReadingLab, it helped me a lot. I am a lot better at it now and I can point them out almost right away after reading a passage.”  


It is important for us to be able to track our MyReadingLab results each semester for assessment purposes. We have been pleasantly surprised with our MyReadingLab results, even though this is where we generally anticipated students would be. If students do the work, naturally they will improve their reading level. Regarding reading skills homework—we don’t want to take class time to cover workbook-type material, so it’s great for students to be able to accomplish this type of work outside of class.

We recently had an “assessment day” on campus to determine students’ strengths and weaknesses based on their scores in MyReadingLab. We looked at an Item Analysis export of the vocabulary topic post-test to see which questions (each tied to a specific objective) students answered mostly correct or incorrect. This was very helpful to us. As we move forward, we will be further analyzing MyReadingLab results in order to refine our implementation.

It is important for us to be able to track our MyReadingLab results each semester for assessment purposes.

It is important for us to be able to track our MyReadingLab results each semester for assessment purposes.


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