Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Reflection #3: The Debate over AR and Reading Counts

Accelerated Reader is one of those things that is debated a lot. I have never heard of or seen Accelerated Reader used in a good, productive way. That doesn't mean that it can't be done or that it isn't done in some areas. It's just usually one of those things that people seem to do because they are told to do it, not because they believe in its value.

After reading "Accelerated Reader Can Be an Effective Tool to Encourage and Bolster Student Reading," I might just be persuaded that AR can really be effective. The story in this article about Billy, the student who couldn't read on grade level, was inspiring. I wish I had a program like this that I could use with my 7th graders who don't read on grade level. I have one student in particular that I would like to sit down and work with. He's a very reluctant student who uses the phrase "I just can't understand why we have to have a reading class when everyone knows how to read good in 7th grade" all the time. I have to remind him that he is no longer in a reading class - that we are now in English/Language Arts - and we focus more on the analysis of text. He thinks it's stupid and a waste of time, even though he isn't on grade level himself. AR could really help him out.

The article "Reading Management Programs: A Review of the Research" also inspired me to want to use these programs in my own classroom. It helped me understand that it's all in the implementation of the program. They shouldn't be used punitively, but only to encourage students to read voluntarily and make progress. There are extrinsic and intrinsic rewards, which I like the ideas of incorporating in all things, not just with AR or Reading Counts! programs. Apparently, research also shows that these reading programs truly are effective in promoting student progress in reading. If research backs it up, who am I to argue?

The last article that was required for us to read this week was all about the controversy surrounding AR. In "Accelerated Reader: The Controversy Continues - A Literature Review of the Effectiveness of Accelerated Reader in Increasing Reading Achievement and Student Motivation," a lot of my original issues with the program were brought to light. For example, the quizzes are simple. They only focus on basic comprehension and don't inspire a lot of critical thinking about the text. My job as an ELA teacher requires students to think critically about a text and analyze the decisions the author has made in creating the work of fiction or nonfiction. AR quizzes are too simple and do not reflect any of my Common Core standards. On the other side of that, some students that I teach are lacking in the basic comprehension of grade level texts. I find myself having to explain things that I should not have to explain to thirteen year old students. Maybe, if they had used AR throughout elementary school, they would be closer to grade level and be able to comprehend these more complex texts. Overall though, according to this article at least, the "jury is still out" on whether or not AR and other reading management programs really do improve student achievement and increase their motivation.

After reading these articles, I'd love to give it a shot.


Bibliographic Information:

Luck, S.A. (2010). Accelerated Reader: The Controversy Continues - A Literature Review of the Effectiveness of Accelerated Reader in Increasing Reading Achievement and Student Motivation. Illinois Reading Council Journal, 38(2), 3-9.
Hansen, L.E., Collins, P., & Warschauer, M. (2009). Reading Management Programs: A Review of the Research. Journal of Literacy & Technology, 10(3), 55-80.
Solley, K. (2011). Accelerated Reader Can Be an Effective Tool to Encourage and Bolster Student Reading. Knowledge Quest, 39(4), 46-49.