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Howdy!

I just had two fourth-grade teachers ask me about starting an AR program at my K-6 elementary school. Have any of you had experience with AR? Are any of you using it now? Do you know what would be involved in getting the library/MARC records ready to launch an AR program? Any idea how expensive it might be or how long it would take to establish? Did/do you have positive results using the program? Sorry for all of the questions, but they invited me to attend a meeting with them and our principal tomorrow morning, and I want to be prepared to intelligently discuss the issue.

Thanks for your expertise!
Tracy

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Just our 7th grade L.A. teachers use the AR program. They do not offer incentives etc. like many schools. It is just part of the class requirements. They are required to have 10 points each quarter, which is usually 2 books. Students take the quiz and scores are recorded as points. They have to score at least 70% for the book points to count. One nice feature AR has now is the Literacy Skills quizzes for some books. Our teachers use those quizzes for class books projects, as the quizzes analyze which skills are being tested. It gives feedback to the teachers to know what skills are still lacking.
Yvonne
Yvonne,

Thanks so much for sharing your experience with me. I am new to AR and really looking for this kind of information. Our 4th grade teachers have decided to go with the program, and I want to be able to support them as best I can. I bet they will be interested in some of the ideas you have provided.

Tracy
My vote is to STAY AWAY from AR. It is expensive and a catch 22, and it creates monsters out of teachers , students, and yes, even parents who misuse it. The program is now a server based program requiring space. Is your district willing to do that, especially if you have not had it before? It is PRICEY now that it is web based and not just a program added to your network. For the amount of money you will spend to implement it and then begin purchasing quizzes, you could probably host two very successful children's authors. I have a 6.X version, and I detest it. Those teachers asking for it probably also want you to throw parties and have mystery trips for points. You'll be labeling all your books, and pretty soon kids will only want to read if its an AR book. You can probably see from my response that I have seen a whole different side of AR, but I don't think I'm the only one. There is no solid research that says AR increases reading scores or a love of reading over tried and true free reading programs like state book award programs, book brunches, book clubs, or anything else we can come up with. My school uses it --against my will. It was there when i came in, and basically I have no choice. But we have considerably toned down the rewards part of it, and now set reasonable goals that challenge students, and have quarterly celebrations for the kids who meet their goals. It's not what I think is the best way to use the program, but it's a far cry better than parties and field trips and AR Stores. I'm sure there are many schools who are "model AR" and have the very best program. But at least in my case, teachers do not have the time to "teach reading" using this program, nor do they want to. They effectively teach reading without using AR, and AR is just one of those incentive programs at school, and nothing more. I'm not saying it isn't effectively used in some places, but my bet is it is misused more than it is used effectively. If i were at a school that didn't have it already, i would find every bit of documentation and research to JUST SAY NO! That's just my opinion, and I'm sure you'll hear a lot of people who love it. So i'll end with this. Do your homework. Find good solid research that backs it up. And make sure you are willing to make the investment financially.
Cathy,

Thank you so much for your candid thoughts. It is important to be able to see both sides of the AR "arguement" and this will help me prepare for my meeting with my principal.

Tracy
AR and RC (Reading Counts) are both just tools. They can be used for good, for bad, or just incompetently. I am currently using RC in middle school with great success. However, we are just using it as a "reading thermometer". In other words it's a quick way to make sure our kids are reading independently. They get to choose what they read. Some teachers require them to read x number of pages, but kids can read 2 books to get to that number. We count the number of words kids read instead of points, because people understand that better.
With the new AR or RC you won't have to buy quizzes. You will have access to all of their quizzes. HOWEVER, both are a subscription now. (Also, both are called Enterprise.) The subscriptions are outrageous!!! The reason I ran across this discussion is because I'm looking for something affordable that would keep kids reading.
I have reports from some of my long-time AR principals that the program was started with gusto, but is so dependent upon the connection to books being available that it is not as much used as at first.

I have begun introducing my area schools to a different program called KidBiz3000 which, like the SRA kits of old, offer up both short reading selections AND assessment questions. It offers thousands of Lexile-leveled articles for levels 2-10, all non-fiction, high interest, and all teacher-managed. This meets the needs of many of our students who, at all ability levels, miss more questions related to reading for information and understanding (our Standard 1) than reading fiction (our Standard 2) on our NY State ELA 4 and 8 assessments.

The product is served all online, which is a strong draw. It is expensive however.
http://www.achieve3000.com has more information.
And NO. I am not a salesperson for this product. I just think it may be of interest ELA teachers and to those looking at AR.

Dan
Thanks for the information, Dan. I will check out the program and if it looks compatible, I'll share it with the teachers that are looking into AR. Hahaha... The salesman concept didn't even cross my mind...

Tracy
I ran the AR program at my last school for 3rd-8th grades for five or six years. Considering the pros and cons mentioned above, here are some tips:
1. Begin the program on a small scale, ie in one class, level, or department. This will give you time to learn the program and work out any quirks at your site.
2. Every teacher who is going to use the program MUST attend a training. When the program is used the wrong way, it does become a MONSTER!
3. Use the program the correct way. Have incentive programs! In the library, I ran a reading rewards store where students could use their points as dollars to buy reading related stuff! THIS IS THE KEY ELEMENT TO HAVING A SUCCESSFUL PROGRAM. Making AR a grade or taking away priviledges because points were not reached etc...has an adverse affect of a child's "love" for reading.
4. Accelerated Reader will increase your circulation dramatically every year. Don't worry that students just start asking for AR books. Almost every book is AR and if it is not you can make it AR.
5. USE THE LITERACY SKILLS TESTS!!!!
6. Ask for help to get your library ready. A full-time aid for 6 months would be a minimum!
Susan
Susan,

This is terrific practical advise that I will share with my principal and the 4th grade teachers that are planning to begin using this program next year. Thank you!--Tracy
Is there any documentation or research as to the negative effects of using Accelerated Reader for grades in the classroom? I like the program for what its initial intent was--motivating and encouraging students to read. Unfortunately, I see this program being used as a basis for classroom grades, and would like to know if you are aware of any articles or research on the subject.
Tracy,

I have been so busy with close of school activities that I missed your call for help concerning the Accelerated Reader Program. Forgive me for not being a very good friend and not being there to answer your call. I use the Accelerated Reader Program at my school. In fact, I became a hero/shero for resurrecting the AR Program on my campus. It seems that a lot of money had been spent previously to order books and purchase matching quizzes, but, for some unknown reason, the ball was dropped and it never “really” got off the ground. Although, there is expense involved with implementing the program initially, but, in the long run, it is well worth it! The initial expense evens out over the long haul. It just so happens that the Department of Library Services for our school district received a massive grant for our district’s libraries, and I opted to utilize some of the funds designated to my school’s library to resurrect the AR Program.

Additionally, since I am on a fixed schedule without a library clerk serving over 1,000 students PreK- 5th grade, it does serve as a single, but, oh so, powerful vehicle to demonstrate librarian-teacher collaboration, use of technology, tangible literacy involvement to inspire love of literature and reading/growth of reading fluency/vocabulary/reading comprehension.

I agree absolutely with Susan Mullen’s May 16th reply. To ensure success, it is better to start slow and easy. When I first started, I began with a small group of teachers who volunteered and were most excited about implementing the AR program! To avoid undesirable circumstances like the temptation for some teachers to become so competitive that they “may” resort to deleting quizzes with low scores to remain more advanced over other teachers/classrooms, the librarian should keep a firm, gentle hand of guiding control, by maintaining the secret password as the AR coordinator to go in and delete undesirable quiz scores “only’ under acceptable circumstances, like students’ errors of taking a quiz that they clicked on by mistake or testing on a book that was obviously beyond their reading level and/or other computer flukes that may occur for unknown, quirky reasons.

Although, my reply comes late and was not in time for your meeting with the fourth grade teachers, however, there will be many more meetings that you will have an opportunity for input regarding AR. Please visit my library page on my school’s website
http://es.houstonisd.org/BrooklineES/ and read my description of our AR Program and view the link to Awesome Accelerated Reading Ideas.

Cheryl, I found your comments very informative.  Did the teachers allow students to open the book while taking the quiz?    I have taken a lot of quizzes (1st to 8th grade), and many times I found myself going back to the book to look for details that I didn’t memorize (I comprehended) or facts that I couldn’t remember from an informative/nonfiction book.

 

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