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It seems to me that we're talking about the AR ATOS levels while we may not
all know very much about it. So I went looking this morning. Some of this I
had read a couple of years ago when we switched to the ATOS levels and some
of it is new to me. Renaissance Learning didn't develop ATOS on their own.
ATOS was developed with the folks at TASA (who came up with Degrees of
Reading Power) and other reading experts (whom I can't find listed anywhere
on their website :/). I learned this morning that ATOS stands for
Advantage-TASA Open Standard. It's based on research involving 30,000
students and 950,000 books.

I found the abstract for this report from interesting:

                     Development and implementation of the new
Advantage-TASA Open Standard (ATOS)
                     Readability Formula for Books is detailed in this
paper. ATOS is a better tool than other
                     readability formulas to help teachers match students to
books due to the following
                     characteristics: 1) ATOS employs the three statistics
found most predictive of reading
                     difficulty: words per sentence, characteristics per
word, average grade level of words. 2)
                     ATOS includes statistics on actual student
book-reading, not just data based on short
                     test passages. 3) ATOS takes book length into account
in determining book difficulty. 4)
                     ATOS more accurately levels "high-low" books,
emergent-reader and nonfiction books.
                     5) ATOS uses whole-book scans instead of samples,
significantly increasing accuracy.  has a brief discussion
about the difference between readability and interest levels, among other
things. has a report comparing
ATOS to other leveling formulas.

To address Tony's concern about non-fiction -- levels for non-fiction books,
particularly in science, will be higher because of the jargon necessarily
contained in them. This is true for all of the readability formulas that I'm
aware of. When we switched to the ATOS levels from Flesh-Kincaid, many of
our non-fiction books went down. AR believes ATOS more accurately levels
non-fiction than any others. More information on this can probably be found
in the report abstracted at the first website I listed above, but I wasn't
able to find anything more concrete online.

I'm not at all sure we have a misuse of leveling going on. What would the
original poster(s) suggest we do instead? No leveling formula is perfect,
but they do help us in helping students to find materials they can be
successful reading. The point of AR, for me, is to get students reading for
fun. I have two graduate degrees and therefore read above high school level,
but I don't read books at the upper grade levels when I am reading for
pleasure. I don't want to work that hard. Most of my friends in the "real"
world don't either! I don't see why I should force 11th graders to read 11th
grade material for leisure reading when I don't.

Anyhow my 2 cents and some info to chew on, :)

Julie Anderson, Librarian
Liberty High School, Renton, WA       425.837.4901

"Fiction is a lie about the truth." Jane Chambers

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