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Using TextEvaluator to Quantify Sources of Linguistic Complexity in Textbooks Targeted at First-Grade Readers Over the Past Half Century CCSS

Sheehan, Kathleen M.; Flor, Michael; Napolitano, Diane; Ramineni, Chaitanya
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Report
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Text Complexity, Readability, Common Core State Standards (CCSS), TextEvaluator, Automated Scoring and Natural Language Processing, Text Analysis, Textbooks, Grade 1


Results suggest that 1st-grade textbooks published over the past half century have included an increasing proportion of informational passages, and this shift has been accompanied by the following specific changes: (a) an increase in the proportion of words that tend to appear less frequently in printed text, (b) an increase in the proportion of words that are more characteristic of academic text as opposed to fiction or conversation, (c) lower levels of referential cohesion, (d) lower levels of narrativity, and (e) fewer instances of an interactive/conversational style. These findings suggest that, in contrast to the claim of a “general, steady decline” in textbook complexity, text-based sources of comprehension difficulty within Grade 1 texts have either risen or held steady throughout the past half century.

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