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The 18 Reasons Not to Use Accelerated Reader

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Accelerated Reader™ (AR) is a simple software concept that was at the right time (late 1980s) and right place (public schools during a transition from whole language to phonics instruction) that has simply grown into an educational monolith. From an economic standpoint, simple often is best and AR is a publisher’s dream come true. Renaissance Learning, Inc.(RLI) is publicly traded on the NASDAQ exchange under the ticker symbol RLRN and makes a bit more than pocket change off of its flagship product, AR. As is the case with many monoliths, detractors trying to chip away at its monopolistic control of library collections, computer labs, and school budgets are many. Following are short summaries of the most common arguments made by researchers, teachers, parents, and students as to why using AR is counterproductive. Hence, The 18 Reasons Not to Use Accelerated Reader. But first, for the uninitiated, is a brief overview of the AR system.

What is Accelerated Reader?

From the Renaissance Learning website, A Parent’s Guide to Accelerated Reader™, we get a concise overview of this program: “AR is a computer program that helps teachers manage and monitor children’s independent reading practice. Your child picks a book at his own level and reads it at his own pace. When finished, your child takes a short quiz on the computer. (Passing the quiz is an indication that your child understood what was read.) AR gives both children and teachers feedback based on the quiz results, which the teacher then uses to help your child set goals and direct ongoing reading practice.”

How is the Student’s Reading Level Determined?

Renaissance Learning sells its STAR Reading™ test to partner with the AR program. The STAR test is a ten minute computer-based reading assessment that adjusts levels of difficulty to student responses. Among other diagnostic information, the test establishes a Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) reading range for the student.

How are AR Books Selected?

Students are encouraged (or required by some teachers) to select books within their ZPD that also match their age/interest level. AR books have short multiple choice quizzes and have been assigned a readability level (ATOS). Renaissance Learning provides conversion scales to the Degrees of Reading Power (DRP) test and the Lexile Framework, so that teachers and librarians who use  these readability formulae will still be able to use the AR program. Additionally, Renaissance Learning provides a search tool to find the ATOS level.

What are the Quizzes? What is the Student and Teacher Feedback?

AR quizzes are taken on computers, ostensibly under teacher or librarian supervision. They consist of multiple choice questions, most of which are at the “recall” level. Students must score 80% or above on these short tests to pass and receive point credit for their readings. When students take AR quizzes, they enter information into a database that teachers can access via password. The TOPS Report (The Opportunity to Praise Students) reports quiz results after each quiz* is taken.

Both teachers and students have access to the following from the database:

  • Name of the book, the author, the number of pages in the book
  • ATOS readability level
  • Percentage score earned by the student from the multiple choice quiz
  • The number of points earned by students who pass the quiz. AR points are computed based on the difficulty of the book (ATOS readability level) and the length of the book (number of words).

*Quizzes are also available on textbooks, supplemental materials, and magazines. Most are in the form of reading practice quizzes, although some are curriculum-based with multiple subjects. Magazine quizzes are available for old magazines as well as on a subscription basis for new magazines. The subscription quizzes include three of the Time for Kids series magazines, Cobblestone, and Kids Discover. www.renlearn.com

What about the Reading Incentives?

“Renaissance Learning does not require or advocate the use of incentives with the assessment, although it is a common misperception.” However, most educators who use AR have found the program to be highly conducive to a rewards-based reading incentive program.

Criticisms

Book Selection

1. Using AR tends to limit reading selection to its own books. Teachers who use the AR program tend to limit students to AR selections because these have the quizzes to maintain accountability for the students’ independent reading. Although much is made by Renaissance Learning of the motivational benefits of allowing students free choice of reading materials, their selection is actually limited. Currently, AR has over 100,000 books in its database; however, that is but a fraction of the books available for juvenile and adolescent readers.

2. Using AR tends to limit reading selection to a narrow band of readability. A concerned mom recently blogs about her experience with her sixth grade daughter (Lady L) who happens to read a few years beyond her grade level:

I’m not trying to be a whining, complaining parent here.  I’m simply trying to highlight a problem.  At our public library, there are bookmarks in the youth department that list suggested books for students in each grade (K-12th).  We picked up an 8th grade bookmark to get ideas for Lady L’s acceptable reading-leveled book.  Found a book.  Looked up the reading level  and found that it was a 4.5 (not anywhere near the 8.7-10.7 my daughter needed). http://inthemomzone.blogspot.com/2010/01/accelerated-readermy-take.html

3. Using AR tends to discriminate against small publishing companies and unpopular authors. Additionally, valid concerns exist about the appropriateness of a private company effectively dictating the materials which children within the program may read. Although teachers may create custom quizzes for reading material not already in the Accelerated Reader system, the reality is that teachers will not have the time nor inclination to do so in order to assess whether an individual student has read a book that is not already in the system. Thus, the ability for a student to explore books which are neither currently commercially popular nor part of major book lists is severely restricted in reality by the Accelerated Reader program. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accelerated_Reader

In fact, many teachers are inadvertently complicit in this discrimination as they require students to read only books that are in the AR database. Many teachers include the TOPS Report as a part of the students’ reading or English-language arts grade, thus mandating student participation in AR.

4. Using AR tends to encourage some students to read books that most teachers and parents would consider inappropriate for certain age levels. Although Renaissance Learning is careful to throw the burden of book approval onto the shoulders of teachers and parents, students get more points for reading and passing quizzes on higher reading levels and longer books. Although an interest level is provided as is a brief synopsis/cautionary warning on the AR site, students often simply select books by the title, cover, availability, or point value. Thus, a fourth grader might wind up “reading” Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye (4.7 ATOS readability level) and a sixth grader might plow through Camus’ The Stranger (6.2 ATOS readability level). Hardly appropriate reading material for these grade levels! Content is not considered in the AR point system and students are, of course, reading for those points.

Reader Response

5. Using AR tends to induce a student mindset that “reading is a chore,” and “a job that has to be done.”

“As a teacher and a mom of 4, I do NOT like AR. As a parent, I watched my very smart 9 year old work the system. He continually read books very much below his ability NOT because he likes reading them, but because he could read them quickly and get points. Other books that he told me he really wanted to read, he didn’t either because they were longer and would take “too long to read” or they weren’t on the AR list. I finally told him to stop with the AR stuff, took him to the bookstore and spent an hour with him finding books he would enjoy. We have never looked back and I will fight wholeheartedly if anyone tries to tell any of my kids they ‘have’ to participate in AR.” http://englishcompanion.ning.com/profiles/blog/show?id=2567740:BlogPost:161876&xg_source=activity&page=3#comments

6. Using AR tends to replace the intrinsic rewards of reading with extrinsic rewards.

AR rewards children for doing something that is already pleasant: self-selected reading. Substantial research shows that rewarding an intrinsically pleasant activity sends the message that the activity is not pleasant, and that nobody would do it without a bribe. AR might be convincing children that reading is not pleasant. No studies have been done to see if this is true.
Stephen Krashen Posted by
Stephen Krashen on December 17, 2009 at 10:40pm http://englishcompanion.ning.com/profiles/blogs/does-accelerated-reader-work?xg_source=activity&id=2567740:BlogPost:161876&page=2#comments

Again, Renaissance Learning does not endorse prizes for points; however, its overall point system certainly is rewards-based.

7. Using AR tends to foster student and/or teacher competitiveness, which can push students to read books at their frustrational reading level or create problems among students. In some situations, this competitiveness can lead to hard feelings or outright ostracism. Students mock other students for not earning enough points, or “making us lose a class pizza party.” Here are two recent blog postings by moms who happen to be educators:

My son is a voracious reader, but AR had him in tears more than once. I had to encourage him to NOT participate in AR (which meant that his class didn’t get the stuffed cougar promised as a reward to the class with the most AR points!) in order to protect that love. He took a hit for his non-participation in school (he started reading books off the list and not getting points for them) but it preserved his love of reading. In my estimation, this love of reading will take him further in the long run. Stupid that he had to choose between school and what was best for his reading life. http://englishcompanion.ning.com/profiles/blogs/does-accelerated-reader-work?xg_source=activity&id=2567740:BlogPost:161876&page=5#comments

As an educator, it concerns me when I see students being punished with reading, as can be the case when I visit sites on a Friday afternoon, a day many grade levels offer students “Fun Friday” activities. Students who’ve completed their class and homework assignments for the week and have had no behavioral problems get to sign-in for fun activities. One teacher volunteers to monitor those who did not earn a Fun Friday, including students who did not meet their AR requirement for the week – and as a result, will be punished with staying in the non-FF room to read.

http://englishcompanion.ning.com/profiles/blogs/does-accelerated-reader-work?xg_source=activity

8. Using AR tends to turn off some students to independent reading. Countless posts on blogs point to the negative impact of this program on future reading. From my own survey of sixty blogs, using the “accelerated reading” search term, negative comments and/or associations with the AR program far outweigh positive ones in the blogosphere. Of course there are those who credit AR for developing them into life-long readers; however, would other independent reading programs have accomplished the same mission? In Kelly Gallagher’s Readicide, he cites a few studies that demonstrate that after exiting an AR program, students actually read less than non-AR students. Plus, all instructional activities are reductive. Having students spend hours skimming books in class to prepare for AR test takes away from other instruction. Check out why sustained silent reading in the classroom doesn’t work here.

9. Using AR tends to turn some students into cheaters. Many students skim read, read only book summaries, share books and answers with classmates, select books that have been made into movies that they have already seen, or use web cheat sites or forums to pass the quizzes without reading the books. Pervasive among many students seems to be the attitude that one has to learn how to beat the AR system, like one uses cheat sites and codes to beat video games. Both are on the computer and detached from human to human codes of conduct. Students who would never dream of cheating on a teacher-constructed test will cheat on AR because “it’s dumb” or “everyone does it.”

In order to take Accelerated Reader tests without any reading at all, many students use sites such as Sparknotes to read chapter summaries. Other websites offer the answers to Accelerated Reader tests. Students regularly trade answers on yahoo.com. Renaissance Learning has filed lawsuits against some of the offending websites and successfully closed them down after a short time. An AR cheat site is currently the ninth Google™ listing on the first page for the “accelerated reader” search term.

AR is Reductive

10. Using AR tends to supplant portions of established reading programs. In my experience, teachers who use AR spend less time on direct reading instruction. Some teachers even consider AR to be solid reading instruction. However, AR does not teach reading; AR tests reading. The expectation of many teachers is that students are learning to read on their own or are dutifully practicing the reading strategies that their teachers have taught them.

11. Using AR tends to train students to accumulate facts and trivia as they read in order to answer the multiple choice recall questions. Students receive no extrinsic “rewards” for making inferences, connections, interpretations, or conclusions as they read. Reading is reduced to a lower higher order thinking process. Students read to gain the gist of characterizations and plots. The Florida Center for Reading Research noted the lack of assessment of “inferential or critical thinking skills” as weaknesses of the software. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accelerated_Reader

12. Using AR tends to takes up significant instructional time. Students have to wait their turn to take quizzes on the classroom computer(s) or the teacher has to march the class down to the library or computer lab to allow the students to do so.

The incentives schools develop with the AR program also take away from instructional time. One parent details her frustrations with the program:

When the librarian tallies up all of the people who have passed a book (not a goal, but just ONE book), everybody gets a chance to come to the library to select a prize (these are dollar store purchases to include child-like toys and snacks). The English teachers are asked to send the students when the coupons come (a disruption of classroom time). The reason for this is to send a clear message to the students who did not pass a book. It is to make them feel bad, I presume. Tell me how this fits into anything that looks like motivation. This includes students who took a quiz the day before coupons were made and distributed who now have to sit in class while all of their classmates go down to collect a prize.

AR recommends a minimum of 20 minutes per day of in-class reading on its website. The National Reading Panel’s conclusion of programs that encouraged independent reading was “unable to find a positive relationship between programs and instruction that encourage large amounts of independent reading and improvements in reading achievement, including fluency.” p.12). There are other options for independent reading, such as reading at home, that do not take up significant amounts of class time.

13. Using AR tends to reduce the amount of time that teachers spend doing “read-alouds” and teaching class novels. Jim Trelease, chief advocate of the “read-aloud” was an early advocate of AR, even keynoting three national conferences for AR. However, in his sixth edition of his popular The Read-Aloud Handbook, Trelease turns quite critical.  AR teachers tend teach fewer core novels and to limit class discussions because of the time considerations or because a discussion would give away AR quiz answers. Besides, the computer can ask the questions instead.

14. Using AR tends to make reading into an isolated academic task. With each student reading a different book, the social nature of reading is minimized. Research on juvenile and adolescent readers emphasizes the importance of the book communities in developing a love for reading. Fewer Literature Circles with small groups sharing the same book and discussing chapter by chapter, fewer Book Clubs focused on Harry Potter or Twilight novels, fewer class Book Talks, and fewer oral book reports (well, maybe AR does have some value here :))

15. Using AR tends to drains resources that could certainly be used for other educational priorities. The program is not cheap. As librarians are losing their jobs in the current economic downturn, the pressure to build up the AR library collection grows. For each $15 hardback purchase, there is an additional cost of close to $3 for the AR quiz. This amounts to a de facto 20% tax on library acquisitions. Another way to look at this is that a school library able to purchase 300 new books a year will only be able to purchase 250 because of the AR program. AR costs that library and those students 50 books per year.

16. Using AR tends to minimize the teaching and instructional practice in diagnostically-based reading strategies. The STAR Test is hardly diagnostic in terms of the full spectrum of reading skills, despite its flimsy claims to point out potential reading issues in the teacher reports. AR neither assesses, nor teaches phonemic awareness, decoding/word attack, syllabication, vocabulary, or reading comprehension strategies.

17. Using AR tends to limit differentiated instruction. Students are not grouped by ability or skill deficits with AR. The teacher does not spend additional time with remedial students for AR. Students do not receive different instruction according to their abilities. Worse yet, many teachers wrongly perceive AR as differentiated instruction because all of their students are reading books at their own reading levels. Again, there is no reading instruction in AR.

Research Base

18. Although a plethora of research studies involving AR are cited on the Renaissance Learning website, the research base is questionable at best. Few of the AR studies meet the strict research criteria of the Institute of Education Services What Works Clearinghouse. Control groups are always the sticky point when evaluating reading programs. The AR program is no exception.

Stephen Krashen summarizes the research findings regarding AR as follows:

Accelerated Reader consists of four elements: (1) books, (2) reading time, (3) tests, and, usually, (4) prizes. Because there is clear evidence that factors (1) and (2) are effective in encouraging reading and promoting literacy development (Krashen, 1993), the obvious study that needs to be done is to compare the effects of all four factors with (1) and (2) only. After reviewing the research on Accelerated Reader, I have concluded that this has yet to be done: Accelerated Reader studies usually compare Accelerated Reader to doing nothing, and the few attempts to do the needed comparison have been flawed (Krashen, 2004) See www.sdkrashen.com for more analysis.

According to the United States Department of Education Institute for Educational Sciences (IES What Works Clearinghouse, August 2010), Accelerated Reader was found to have no discernible effects on reading fluency or comprehension for adolescent learners.

But, are there any free, schoolwide independent reading programs that do work? Click here to learn How to Develop a Free Schoolwide Reading Program.

Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading Strategies. Designed to significantly increase the reading abilities of students ages eight through adult within one year, the curriculum is decidedly un-canned, is adaptable to various instructional settings, and is simple to use—a perfect choice for Response to Intervention tiered instructional levels. Get multiple choice diagnostic reading assessments , formative assessments, blending and syllabication activitiesphonemic awareness, and phonics workshops, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube, 586 game cards, posters, activities, and games.TRS

Also get the accompanying Sam and Friends Phonics Books. These eight-page decodable take-home books include sight words, word fluency practice, and phonics instruction aligned to the instructional sequence found in Teaching Reading Strategies. Each book is illustrated by master cartoonist, David Rickert. The cartoons, characters, and plots are designed to be appreciated by both older remedial readers and younger beginning readers. The teenage characters are multi-ethnic and the stories reinforce positive values and character development. Your students (and parents) will love these fun, heart-warming, and comical stories about the adventures of Sam and his friends: Tom, Kit, and Deb. Oh, and also that crazy dog, Pug.

Everything teachers need to teach a diagnostically-based reading intervention program for struggling readers at all reading levels is found in this comprehensive curriculum. Ideal for students reading two or more grade levels below current grade level, English-language learners, and Special Education students. Simple directions and well-crafted activities truly make this an almost no-prep curriculum. Works well as a half-year intensive program or full-year program, with or without paraprofessional assistance.

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  1. Dawn Rutkowski
    May 25th, 2016 at 19:55 | #1

    I am a new principal of an elementary school that uses AR and honestly am not a fan however my teachers “love” it. I’m really puzzled by what they “love” about it. Our school spends over 5K for this program a year which in my opinion could be better used purchasing more books for the library or assisting teachers with classroom libraries. How do I get my teachers/staff as well as parents to see this?

  2. May 27th, 2016 at 06:05 | #2

    By offering a more enticing alternative… See my new link in the article titled “How to Develop a Free Schoolwide Reading Program” for this article.

  3. Sarah K
    June 3rd, 2016 at 10:02 | #3

    I despise AR! My 12 year old HAS to use it at school, no chance to opt out. She is a fantastic reader, always has been; I’ve spent 7 years reading with her, discussing every book, but since moving up to secondary school and using AR that has had to change. They are given reading targets every 6 weeks, if they fail to reach their targets they are punished. Is that right? Her reading level at present is that of a 16-17 year old, does she still need to reach these ridiculous targets when she is already a happy and competent reader? I think not! AR should be banned from all schools.

  4. Shelley
    June 17th, 2016 at 05:30 | #4

    @Dawn Rutkowski
    They love it because it is so easy for the teacher. What does the teacher need to do? Nothing. Just tell them to do it. My problem is that I find it a waste of time and stressful to be tested on EVERY SINGLE BOOK YOU READ. Why would we do this? There is so much testing done these days that teaching time is being reduced. Why must we test on EVERY SINGLE BOOK? I love the AR program but would use it once every few weeks as a guideline and have the rest of the instructional time for reading spent teaching and free reading.

  5. June 25th, 2016 at 12:40 | #5

    I read the article in response to the pastor’s defense of the resurrection. So much assuming what has not been proven in this article, especially with respect to assuming the late date of Luke and Acts. In essence, the author’s entire argument assumes an historical consensus that just isn’t there i.e., the resurrection accounts were written by secondary sources around 90 A.D. or later and were accepted into the defacto canon of early Christian scripture because the true eyewitnesses were not there to affirm or rebut the claims.

    For example, from the author’s conclusion:

    “With a mountain (more accurately, a “mole hill”) of evidence like this, why would a person opt for hostile witnesses of a later date dismissing the earliest witnesses as irrelevant, unless, of course, there might be a bias at play and not with the earliest Christian witnesses either. Your evidence, Pastor, is based on nothing but assumptions, second century hearsay, and gigantic leaps of faith. How about we back up and you provide ONE confirmed eyewitness testimony of anyone seeing the walking/talking dead body of Jesus; or an empty tomb; or a three hour eclipse; or the tearing of the Temple veil, or…etc., etc…

    Pastor John
    Lent, 2016

    In my mind, the best argument for an early date to Luke and Acts is what is not in these historical documents. To trace the history of the church in a letter written circa 90 A.D. without mentioning the Jewish Wars (66-73) and destruction of Jerusalem would be ludicrous.

    And so a better grounded historical analysis would accept the early date of writing before the Jewish Wars. This would turn the author’s entire premise upside down, lending credibility to the historical Luke and Acts accounts, wouldn’t it?

  6. April
    July 5th, 2016 at 10:39 | #6

    @Concerned Parent
    I agree with u. My son got all A’s and B’s on report card but didn’t have all ar points so he had to do summer school or not pass to next grade. It is ridiculous.

  7. July 5th, 2016 at 14:10 | #7

    Of course that craziness is not the fault of the Accelerated Reader program.

  8. tina
    September 5th, 2016 at 19:15 | #8

    I’m so disappointed by how one sided this article is. This was one of the best programs I have ever used as a teacher and the growth in students is evident. Proper training and utilization solves all these problems. It’s a shame people only read one sided accounts of things to make decisions.

  9. Kevin
    September 11th, 2016 at 13:06 | #9

    I’m not too sure about some of these criticisms. Certainly, AR is limited and can be abused, but that’s an issue, not a fatal flaw. Can it encourage competition? Yes it can. But, I can tell you that competition can be a powerful motivator. While many can be discouraged with trying to read difficult texts, I can testify that AR is responsible for making me the reader I am today. Within months of starting to take AR tests, I went from little more than “See Spot Run” to Harry Potter, Hardy Boys, as well as non-fiction. My spelling scores went from E (needs improvement) to B+ within a similar time period. It also introduced me to the fundamentals of reading comprehension. Should be the end all, be all of reading education? No, but that doesn’t mean it should be done away with.

  10. Kevin
    September 11th, 2016 at 13:19 | #10

    @tina
    I agree. I had a school run by teachers who knew how to use it. I went from the smallest Magic Tree House books to Harry Potter and beyond within months.

  11. Colleen
    September 11th, 2016 at 14:29 | #11

    @tina
    My son just a failed an AR test because there were questions on it that were not in the book. He wasn’t the only one. His teacher said “sorry, I don’t make the tests.” Why are there tests that don’t relate to the books or has the information is wrong? A friend had another test where the characters names were wrong. Unfortunately, I don’t find this to be “one of the best programs.”

  12. Akin
    October 28th, 2016 at 16:36 | #12

    @Dawn Rutkowski
    I do not see the benefits of AR and it is zapping my own boys’ love of reading. I teach gifted and I started using the Whooo’s Reading website. There is a free version and one that you can pay for. I am currently paying for it out of my own pocket, because I really love it. Students have owl avatars and can message each other about the books that they log on the program. In gifted classes, I allow students to read what interests them as long as the content is appropriate. The website has excellent questions (all different levels too) that students can answer. I love that the questions are not multiple “guess” and they have to put thought into their responses. I can respond to their answers and other students can respond as well. This makes it interactive. Students receive owl points and can buy items in the owl shop. This makes it fun. Students seem to enjoy being able to have more choices and freedom with their reading. As a student I would read a librarian’s list every year. The best part for me was talking to the librarian about the books that I read. Whooo’s Reading makes it fun and easy to talk to my students about what they are reading. AR does not do this. I hope this helps. BTW – this is an honest response and I receive no money from this company or compensation. I really do love it.

  13. Wesley
    November 3rd, 2016 at 07:09 | #13

    Ar is one of the dumbest things ever seeinnng as it is so stressful for kids

  14. Renee Badenoch
    November 3rd, 2016 at 13:45 | #14

    I am a youth service provider at my library and I cannot describe how much I hate the AR. The books they have listed on their website are incredibly limited. A few schools I serve use AR and I spend hours trying to find books in the appropriate AR reading range, and the ones I do find are very often, old, uninteresting, outdated and are incredibly non-diverse. If teachers are concerned about their students not reading at grade level, I recommend using Fountas and Pinnell, which has a much bigger range of books.

  15. Michele Perez
    November 7th, 2016 at 08:07 | #15

    I am a teacher and would like to know if AR should be used as an extrinsic Reward or Punitive measure? Personally, I don’t use it as such but I am having conflict with other colleagues that believe it should be used to “punish” children and have something to “hold over their heads” if they do not meet their AR goals. If this is the case, then how can a low level reader or even a SPED child ever keep up with the other students??

  16. Elizabeth Straley
    November 27th, 2016 at 19:33 | #16

    Like most things in schools, AR is a tool. A tool in the right hands can build and create; a tool in the wrong hands can destroy. I have found AR to be an effective tool as I help gifted, regular, or struggling students find books at their own levels, stretch for higher levels, find new interests, or focus on favorite hobbies. Teachers who use it in punitive ways are probably using their other tools punitively as well. Being able to co-write tests with me has allowed my strong students the opportunity to hone their writing skills as well. In the past, the program might have been more limited than what it is today. This article is 6 years old and should probably be updated to accurately reflect the current AR practices (especially the literacy skills quizzes which have a greater depth of knowledge than the basic AR tests). AR is one tool which makes my differentiation more effective and lets students explore their favorite genres more deeply than I have time for in my whole group instruction.

  17. November 28th, 2016 at 19:12 | #17

    Well said. Although the questions have improved, the bulk of the criticisms remain valid. Again, teachers can certainly create a more effective independent reading program without the drawbacks, downsides, and expense of AR.

  18. Jennifer
    November 29th, 2016 at 09:03 | #18

    @Michele Perez
    Michele–simple answer: NO. Just don’t even start down that AR path as the company will try to rope you in to using it more and more and more. You as a teacher can create fun incentives which will appeal to the students who respond to competition and which also stimulate kids who just like to read. I’m at my 3rd school currently and it’s the first one that’s used AR and I can tell you it is absolutely worse than I thought it could be. I’d had experience with it from working both at bookstores and public libraries but seeing the kids stress over the tests, being told that a book is “too hard” for them and feeling the joy once obtained from reading slowly ebb away is just too much. Do a “Book Bingo” or have a book club for Goosebumps or a gross, funny or scary book. Do monthly “Guess the Character” with prizes. Get magazines for the kids to read. Just avoid AR.

  19. Dana
    December 1st, 2016 at 04:47 | #19

    I agree that it is a tool and, if used correctly, can be great. My daughter’s school uses it as a supplement to the curriculum and rewards for reaching a goal. There is no punishment for not reaching a goal. Individuals that reach the goal receive a reward. This is the first year she could participate and, so far, I like what I see. My daughter is not always naturally motivated but this was an area that she totally did on her own. She knew the goal and made sure she met/exceeded it. We don’t limit her reading to only AR books. When we go to the public library, if she happens to choose a book that is on the AR list, she can take a quiz, if not, it’s no big deal. I just love that, as a 2nd grader, she now enjoys reading and has taken responsibility for reaching her goals. If your school is using the program in a way that is discouraging or counterproductive, I don’t think it’s appropriate to blame it on the program. Any program you use, if not implemented properly, will probably fail.

  20. Sharon Barney
    December 5th, 2016 at 15:27 | #20

    @Dana
    I totally agree with your comment. I have been using it for 15 years, was trained with the AR program, and my students use it daily. I don’t ever punish a child for not reaching their goal. I keep encouraging them to meet their goal, by listening and following along with a book on tape, have parents come in to read, and keeping on top of each child and their progress. AR has many forms and data to keep track of each child’s success. I have to tell them to put their books away to start our regular curriculum, each day. Honestly, I don’t have time to make tests to go with thousands of books, and teach the Common Core, grade, differentiate, get ready for evaluations, which determine if I will still have a job. I need to have a program like AR that has everything done for me, except the encouragement, keeping track of what they read and signing off on their AR chart after each test they take to hold them accountable. What I do feel needs to happen is for Renaissance Learning to send representatives from the company, before school starts and retrain the faculty to make sure we are using the program correctly and for the benefit of the children. Please don’t give up on AR.

  21. Sharon Barney
    December 5th, 2016 at 15:55 | #21

    @Anita
    Well, then her teacher is not using it correctly. That is not Renaissance Learning’s fault. Her teacher should be trying to figure out why she is not doing well.

  22. Sharon Barney
    December 5th, 2016 at 15:59 | #22

    @Jack Jarvis
    I had a child who had done that the year before and because no one ever checked on him, he took many many tests, failed them all, and didn’t read any of the books.

  23. Michael Larson
    December 8th, 2016 at 13:01 | #23

    As a librarian at the middle school and high school level, my issue is motivation for students to read; period. We scrapped the AR program at the high school and middle school and students checking out books went way down. At the middle school level, students have to complete in a Reading Plus program (and the response has been very negative) with several parents wishing that we could go back to the AR program.

    I have tried different incentive programs to lure students back into the library and reading. I have embraced the concept of making the library more than a quiet place to read a book, but students feel that they don’t need to read unless it is assigned to them.

    While not every book in the library is an AR book (I do not purchase books based on AR availability), it does offer students more choice than requiring lit circles at our school (we have some titles with enough for a group for four or five, but it is limited) or any other program we have used.

    I think that AR can be used in a very negative sense. It has to be up to the teacher to try and understand the needs and abilities of the student. I don’t think AR is a solution for every student, but nothing it perfect for every student.

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  1. November 21st, 2016 at 07:29 | #1