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How To Analyze The STAAR Reading Test Using Lexile or ATOS

by Model Teaching | September 10, 2017.

Have you chosen a passage for your students to read in class but weren’t sure whether the level of complexity was right? Do you wonder about the real Lexile® level of STAAR passages or other standardized tests? Or, perhaps you’d like to type up your own sample passages for students, but want to make sure you are writing text at the appropriate level for your students.

This post will review two sources to help you analyze texts more deeply, so that you can provide your students the right level of texts to help move them towards mastery of their grade level standards.

STAAR Reading


The Lexile Analyzer® allows users to input a piece of text into the system, and an algorithm analyzes the content to produce an estimated Lexile level. Sign in for free at lexile.com/analyzer to analyze text of up to 1000 words, or upgrade to Professional Access to analyze longer pieces of text.

The analyzers provide an estimated Lexile measure, average sentence length, word count, and word count frequency. Pair the estimated Lexile result with our Lexile Conversion chart (download below) that provides estimated alignments between Lexile®Level, Fountas and PinnellTM Guided Reading Level, and Grade Level to help you understand the expectations for your students given a certain passage.


Your 3rd grade students are preparing to take the Texas End of year standardized test- the STAAR- for the first time. You have used books appropriate to their grade level and students are meeting your in- class expectations by correctly demonstrating comprehension of text details. You provide your students with a released STAAR test to complete a benchmark assessment of their progress, and to give them additional practice answering questions related to the reading passages. You notice your students are performing more poorly on the STAAR test than they did in class. What could have happened?

Use the Lexile Analyzer to copy excerpts of reading passages provided by the released TSAAR tests.

  • You can find all released tests on the TEA website here: http://tea.texas.gov/student.assessment/STAAR_Released_Test_Questions/
  • Analyze the released STAAR passages and estimate Lexile level and equivalent grade level. Is it aligned with your students? Or, are the levels above grade level?
    Here’s a tip: Open notepad on your computer, and first paste text into notepad before again copying and pasting the notepad text into the Lexile Analyzer. This will strip the text of any formatting it may have, which is critical to ensure that it does not interfere with the text analysis algorithms.


ATOS Analysis uses an algorithm to determine ATOS level by calculating word count, word length, sentence length, and vocabulary level. It is paired with a grade band chart to help you more easily target passages to appropriate student. Use the free tool by Renaissance® by navigating to https://www.renaissance.com/products/practice/accelerated-reader-360/atos-and-text-complexity/ 
Renaissance’s free ATOS analyzer allows you to cut and paste text like Lexile, but it also allows you to analyze an excerpt or entire books or files up to 25,000 characters.


You are teaching math to a group of transitional 4th grade students. Your students have come a long way during the school year and know how to apply most of the math rules they have learned. However, even though they understand the underlying math concepts, they struggle with completing some word problems, but not others. How could text complexity come into play in your math class?

Analyze the released STAAR passages and the ATOS level and equivalent grade level for a math word problem.

  • What is the average vocabulary level or sentence length?
  • Then, analyze your own created word problems from your classroom.
  • Do your word problems match the level of complexity of the standardized tests that measure their aptitude?


  1. Select a released STAAR test for your content area and grade level.  If you teach more than once content area, perform an analysis for each content area.  Use the Text Complexity Tracker (download below) to calculate the approximate Lexile Level or ATOS level of each passage or question that contains a significant amount of text using one of the tools mentioned above. Estimate the student’s grade level using our provided Lexile Conversion Chart or the Grade Level Band Chart provided by ATOS within the analyzer tool.
  2. After completing your analysis, ask yourself: Am I creating lessons and practice passages or problems that are provided to students at the same level of rigor? Am I setting up my students for success on the STAAR?
  3. Consider performing a second analysis on the work you provide to students in class, and consider what adjustments to your classroom content need to be made in order to allow students to demonstrate mastery of class content on the STAAR.

As educators, we understand the importance of setting the right goals and expectations for our students, and then backwards planning to make sure we support our students on the path to mastery of those goals. Taking the time to properly analyze the tests our students are exposed to will help us build better lesson and set better goals for our students.

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Text Complexity Tracker

Use the Text Complexity Tracker to calculate the approximate Lexile Level or ATOS level of each passage or question that contains a significant amount of text using one of the tools mentioned above.

Lexile Conversion Chart

This Lexile Conversion Chart will help you approximate reading levels.  With it you can align Lexile Lexile, Fountas & Pinnell Level, & ATOS Book Level with Grade level for a particular passage or book.  Included are listed reading strategies for consideration aligning to the different levels.


Think about an upcoming lesson in your content area and consider what vocabulary students may need to know in order to be successful in understanding the lesson content. Consider what words your English Language Learners may especially find difficult to understand, and how they might have different meanings across content areas. Then, use our provided template to build a word bank or a cloze activity to help students practice their new vocabulary after they have learned the lesson content.

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