I began seven years ago to offer my students the option of reading their class text assignment from a lower grade level textbook. I was much influenced by reading specialist Dr. Richard Allington (Allington, 2009) and I was convinced that giving students access to reading materials at or below their grade level reading ability was vitally important to (1) giving them access to the information necessary to retain to pass my class and (2) to help them develop toward grade level reading by reading texts they could read. I remain committed to this premise.
However, I am also committed to a class that is fundamentally fair. I am committed to the value that in a differentiated classroom, the different tasks should be mostly equivalent in value. The relative workload and time of tasks that receive the same weight in the grade book should be about the same.
One way I have tested this is to apply a z-score standardization procedure to different task scores to ensure that they are mostly equally difficult. With regard to reading assignments, I have not made any distinction between the grade available to students doing the lower level or grade level textbook reading. I allowed students to freely choose from topic to topic which they would like to use. I am now of the opinion that I need to reduce the maximum score for using the easier text because the value of the work product is lesser.
This white paper presents an analysis comparing the lower and grade level textbooks and the rationale for a change I will commit in my middle and high school classes. Students doing the reading task from the lower level text will have a reduced maximum score for two reasons: firstly, the workload and content is only about half that of the standard text and secondly, to provide incentive to move toward the grade level text while still offering an opportunity to weaker readers to access course content through text.