The Accelerated Reader Program (AR) has been widely used in my county and in others for several years now. AR is an individualized reading program designed to promote student interest in reading. When using the program, a student is first STAR tested to determine his/her reading level range. This test also determines weaknesses and book levels best suited for the child. The student then chooses a book that is within the given level and on the AR test list. The child reads the book at his/her own pace. In the primary grades, students are given the option to have the book read to them. After reading the book, the child completes an AR test on the computer. Tests range from five to ten questions depending on the length of the book.
After the test is complete, the student and teacher receive immediate feedback. The program shows the score made and allows the student to go back and view test questions that were answered incorrectly.
Each book is assigned a specific number of points. The level of the book and the number of pages in the book determine how many points it is worth. After taking a test, the student receives points based on the number of questions that he/she got right. The points are tallied by the system. Many schools have rewards and clubs for students earning points. Once a student has taken a quiz over a book, the system will not allow the student to take another quiz on the same book. However, there are allowances for administrators and teachers to remove tests from a student’s record if needed.
The main questions that most schools ask about Accelerated Reader are; “Does research support the program?” and “What are educators’ opinions of the program?” There is an extensive group of research that confirms that the Accelerated Reader program is effective. The research has found that the program allows teachers to monitor the growth of the students at various learning levels. Teachers compliment the program because it allows their students to work at different levels of reading while cutting down on paperwork. It also provides a way to test students’ comprehension of a variety of books without the teacher having to read each book. The program also increases the motivation to read among students.
I have participated in the Accelerated Reader Program as a student and as a teacher. Like most programs, it has pros and cons. The program seems to work better in younger grades when it is fresh and new to the students. Older students often choose books according to points and quizzes rather than interests in the book. This, I feel, is a downfall. As an upper grade teacher, I always allowed my students to read any book, even if it was not on the list. They then could choose to write a book report or complete a project and earn points from me.
By eighth grade, many students are bored with the program. I attribute much of this boredom to teachers improperly using the program. Some teachers require students to obtain many points and punish students who do not reach their goal. Other teachers use reading as a form of punishment when the class has been rowdy. While Accelerated Reader is a great supplement, it should not be the entire reading curriculum. Teachers have to remember that they still must teach reading. It is often too easy for teachers to allow the computer to control their reading curriculum. After observing these problems in our district, a decision was made that scores from the Accelerated Reader Program could not count more than 20% of a student’s reading grade.
Although it did have glitches for my district to work out, I also saw great gains with the Accelerated Reader Program. Students that did not enjoy reading had motivation to read. Again, students could read on their level and easily be monitored. Overall, the program works and is still active in my county. Teachers must just be cautious about how they use it in their classroom.
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