My friend B called yesterday to talk about her second grader. A former teacher herself, B was worried because she hasn’t seen any language-arts related papers come home. When she asks her daughter about reading groups at school, her daughter simply says, “We don’t do reading groups. I take tests on a computer.”
Her daughter is right; she is taking tests on the computer. Her school uses Accelerated Reader , which according to the AR site is “the world’s most widely used reading software.” AR works this way: Student reads a book, student takes a quiz, teacher gets a report that outlines the quiz scores. Students’ scores accumulate during the year, and the number of points available differs by book. The easier the book, the fewer the points. For example, in browsing the AR BookFinder site, I learned that Jerry Pinkney’s Little Red Riding Hood is worth 0.5 points, Abel’s Island (William Steig) is worth 3 points.
The What Works Clearinghouse review of Accelerated Reader found two studies that met the WWC evidence standards. Based on the data from these two studies, WWC concluded:
The WWC considers the extent of evidence for Accelerated Reader to be medium to large for comprehension and small for reading fluency and general reading achievement.
I’m okay with a school having AR in place, and using it for what it may be: a supplemental intervention that may encourage kids to engage in more independent reading. But a word of caution: 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), so AR really shouldn’t be used as a large part of the LA block.
Accelerated Reader doesn’t provide reading instruction. Teachers do. I’ve encouraged B to call her child’s teacher and find out more about the 90 minute block of LA time. Chances are there’s a lot more going on than B’s daughter recognizes. Stay tuned, I’ll let you know what B says when she calls me back!