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An Open Educational Resource for Teaching Revision: Flesch-Kincaid Readability Statistics.

Author: Beth Counihan
Department of English, Queensborough Community College-CUNY

Author Note:
I have no known conflicts of interest to disclose.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to:
Beth Counihan, Queensborough Community College-CUNY, 222-05 56 Ave, Humanities 428, Bayside, NY 11364. Email:


As the world begins to emerge from the Covid-19 Pandemic, college faculty are ever more mindful of the high cost of textbooks and other necessities of student life.  Assigning open educational resource (OER) texts lightens the financial burden and helps contribute to a more equitable campus.  Faculty also need to have in our pedagogical tool boxes strategies that work well both in the traditional and virtual classrooms, as we now know we must be prepared for any situation.  With this in mind, I would like to share the promising findings of a qualitative study a colleague and I conducted pre-pandemic, in Fall 2018 with our ENGL101: Freshman Composition students, one that suggests further inquiry.  We assigned an open educational resource, Flesh-Kincaid Readability Statistics, to complement our work teaching college reading and writing skills. Our limited data, the students’ own writing, indicated that using Readability Statistics supported the skill of revision in particular. 

At our urban public community college, seventy-three percent of our students received full financial aid the semester of our study (QCC Fact Book 2020).  We serve a highly diverse student body with no one dominant group.   In addition, our community college is a designated Hispanic-Serving Institution and HETS member institution, with Hispanic students or their families largely from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Mexico and Ecuador.  Our students each have access to a free subscription to the New York Times–paid through student activity fees, so there is no out-of-pocket expense.   I assign the New York Times as a required text in all levels of my English courses.  We read articles pertaining to our course topics, but also I assign students to read and write summaries of articles of their own choice, each according to their own interests.  Students interested in video games and smart phone technology read and summarize articles in the Times Personal Tech section, for exampleStudents concerned about equity and social justice read and summarize articles about racial reckoning and immigration issues.

To reinforce our classroom work on academic writing revision strategies, I assign students to use OER sites like (although not all features on the site are no-cost)Students paste their summaries into a text box on the site and the Flesch-Kincaid Readability Statistics program is applied, giving students an immediate measurement of the grade level of their writing.  As students revise their New York Times article summaries in, they can see the grade level rise in real time. They see how the grade level rises when they are strategic and mindful about revision, with most students who participated in our study in Fall 2018 seeing an increase of two grade levels in their revised summaries.

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