The Purpose of Accelerated Reader
Reading is a skill and, as with every skill, it requires not just instruction but practice. Reading practice serves a number of purposes. It enables students to apply the skills and strategies that you teach. It gives you opportunities to check student learning and identify weaknesses. And it draws students into the world of “real” reading—a world in which people learn from and enjoy books.
Practice does not automatically lead to growth, however. To be effective, practice must have certain attributes: it must be at the right level of difficulty, cover a sufficient amount of time, be guided by the instructor, and be enjoyable enough to sustain. The purpose of Accelerated Reader is to enable powerful practice.
Accelerated Reader provides other research-proven benefits as well. It promotes wide reading,which is the most effective method for building vocabulary. And through its progress-monitoring and feedback mechanisms, it reinforces student effort—one of the most important practices in classrooms that work, according to education expert Robert Marzano. Supported by a vast body of scientific research, AR has been favorably reviewed by the What Works Clearinghouse and the National Center on Student Progress Monitoring.
How Accelerated Reader Works
At the heart of Accelerated Reader are a few basic steps:
1. You schedule time for daily reading practice, additional to your instructional reading period. During this time, your students select and read library books that match their individual ability levelsand interests.
2. When a student finishes a book, he or she takes an AR Reading Practice Quiz on a computer, NEO 2, or mobile device, such as an iPad, iPod, or iPhone. This quiz assesses general comprehension of the book just read.
3. Accelerated Reader scores the quiz, keeps track of the results, and generates reports. You use this data to monitor each student’s practice, guide students to appropriate books, and target instruction.
Book Level, Interest Level, and Points
To help you guide students to books that are right for them, we provide three pieces ofinformation about every book for which we have an AR quiz:
Book Level represents the difficulty of the text. It is determined by a readability formula called ATOS, which analyzes the average length of the sentences in the book, the average length of the words, and the average grade level of the words. ATOS reports the overall book level in terms of grade. For example, a book level of 4.5 means that the text could likely be read by a student whose reading skills are at the level of grade 4, fifth month of the school year. It does not, however, mean that the content is appropriate for a fourth grader. To indicate that, we use another measure called “interest level.”
Interest Level is based on content—a book’s themes and ideas—and indicates for which age group a book is appropriate. In many cases, a book’s interest level coordinates with its book level. Hank the Cowdog, for example, which is suitable for fourth graders, has a book level of 4.5. Many books, however, have a low book level but are appropriate for higher grades and vice versa. For example, Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises has a book level of 4.4 because the sentences are short and the vocabulary is simple. The interest level, however, is Upper Grades. Arthur Throws a Tantrum, on the other hand, with an interest level of Lower Grades, has a book level of 4.9 because it contains fairly long words and sentences.
AR Measures Practice with Points
Because points are based on word count, AR uses them to keep track of how much reading a student has done. Students “earn” points by taking the AR quiz for the bookthey have just read. If a student reads a 10-point book and scores 100 percent on thequiz, he earns 100 percent of the points. If the student scores 90 percent, he earns 90percent of the points, and so on. To earn any amount of points, a student must score
at least 60 percent on a five- or 10-question quiz and 70 percent on a 20-question quiz. Points make it easy to see how much reading practice a student has successfully completed. For example, a student who has accumulated 50 points has read many more words than a student who has accumulated 10 points.
The Importance of Good Comprehension
Our research shows that the most important factor in accelerated reading growth is good comprehension. Therefore we encourage students to strive for high scores on AR quizzes and maintain an average score of at least 85 percent—with 90 percent being even better. Why then, you may be wondering, does AR give students points for scores of 60 percent and higher, if an average of 85 or 90 percent is the goal? Remember, points tell you how much reading practice a student has done. If a student spends two weeks reading a 10-point book and scores 100 percent, AR records 10 points, which is a fantastic accomplishment. If the student only scores 60 percent, AR records six points, which is not so good but does document the time and effort he put in. The teacher’s role, is to either guide the student to a more appropriate book or help the student develop comprehension strategies so that he will be more successful with future books and quizzes.