I'm confused. Common Core says to teach students at Lexile levels matched to their grade, but I always was told it was best to teach students at their "instructional level" no matter what grade they were in. What should I do?
This is one of the most challenging aspects of Common Core in grades 2-12.
Teachers are being asked to teach students to read with texts that previously would have been labeled frustration level. There are several reasons for this change, but one of the most important is that too many students don't reach sufficiently high reading levels by the time they leave high school. Raising book levels along the way will increase their opportunity to master such material in time.
Research and experience suggest that there is no magic level or right-on student/book match that enables learning. Students can make real progress even with relatively hard books. But , while it is possible to teach reading with challenging materials --as Common Core requires -- teachers must "up their game" to make this work. The harder a text is for a group of students, the more scaffolding, support, and encouragement they need. There will definitely have to be more rereading, and teachers will have to become more cognizant of why students struggle with a text, as well as more adept at questioning students about those sticking points and providing appropriate feedback and explanation that would allow students to make sense of what they are reading.
Although Common Core sets those Lexile levels to show what students have to be able to handle by the end of a school year, that does not mean that all of the teaching has to take place at those levels. Each year, students should be engaged in a range of reading experiences, with the appropriate guidance of a skilled and thoughtful teacher. Students should be expected to have a varied diet of both easier and harder books, with more or less teacher support depending on how hard the text is for the students.