A Review of Accelerated Reader

a young student reading a book
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Accelerated Reader is one of the world’s most popular reading programs. The software program, commonly referred to as AR, is designed to motivate students to read and to assess their overall understanding of the books that they are reading. The program was developed by Renaissance Learning Inc., which has several other programs closely related to the Accelerated Reader program.

Although the program is designed for student’s grades 1-12, Accelerated Reader is especially popular in elementary schools across the country. The programs main purpose is to determine whether or not the student has actually read the book. The program is designed to build and encourage students to become lifelong readers and learners. In addition, teachers can use the program to motivate their students by providing rewards that correspond to the number of AR points earned by the student.

Accelerated Reader is essentially a three-step program. Students first read a book (fiction or nonfiction), magazine, textbook, etc. Students may read individually, as a whole group, or in small group settings. Students then individually take the quiz that corresponds to what they just read. AR quizzes are assigned a point value based on the overall level of the book.

Teachers often set weekly, monthly, or yearly goals for the number of points they require their students to earn. Students who score below 60% on the quiz do not earn any points. Students who score 60% - 99% receive partial points. Students who score 100% receive full points. Teachers then use the data generated by these quizzes to motivate students, monitor progress, and target instruction.

Internet-Based

Accelerated Reader is Internet-based meaning that it can be accessed easily on any computer that has Internet access.

Being Internet based allows Renaissance Learning to automatically update the program and to store key data on their servers. This makes it much easier on a school’s IT team.

Individualized

One of the best things about Accelerated Reader is that it allows the teacher to dictate how the program is used including the ability to limit students to a reading range that is on their level. This keeps students from reading books that are too easy or too difficult.

Accelerated Reader allows students to read on their own levels and to read at their own pace. It does not dictate which book a student reads. There are currently over 145,000 quizzes available to students. In addition, teachers may make their own quizzes for books that currently are not in the system or they may request that a quiz is made for a particular book. Quizzes are added continuously for new books as they come out.

Easy to Set Up

Students and teachers can be quickly added to the system either through large batch enrollment or individualized addition.

Accelerated Reader allows teachers to customize individual reading levels. Teachers can get these reading levels from a STAR Reading Assessment, standardized assessment, or individual teacher assessment.

Classes can be quickly set up to allow the teacher to monitor whole class reading progress and to compare individual students within that class.

Motivates Students

Every quiz in the Accelerated Reader program is worth points. Points are determined by a combination of the difficulty of the book and the length of the book.

Teachers often set goals for the number of points each student must earn. The teacher then rewards their students by giving things such as prizes, parties, etc as motivation to meet their goals.

Assesses Student Understanding

Accelerated Reader is designed to determine whether or not a student has read a particular book and the level at which they understand the book. A student cannot pass the quiz (60% or higher) if they have not read the book.

Students who pass the quizzes demonstrate that they not only read the book, but they have a proficient level of understanding of what the book was about.

Uses the ATOS Level

The ATOS book level is a readability formula used by the Accelerated Reader program to represent the difficulty of a book. Each book in the program is assigned an ATOS number. A book with a level of 7.5 should be read by a student whose reading level is somewhere around the 7th grade and fifth month of the school year.

Encourages Using the Zone of Proximal Development

Accelerated Reader encourages the use of the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). The Zone of Proximal Development is defined as the range of difficulty that will challenge a student without causing the student to become frustrated or lose motivation. The ZPD can be determined by the STAR Reading assessment or the teacher’s best professional judgment.

Allows Parents to Monitor Progress

The program allows parents to do the following:

  • Monitor a student’s progress towards reading goals.
  • Conduct book searches.
  • Review results, view the number of books read, words read, and quizzes passed.

Provides Teachers With Tons of Reports

Accelerate Reader has about a dozen fully customizable reports. These include diagnostic reports, history reports; quiz usage reports, student point reports, and many more.

Provides Schools With Technical Support

Accelerated Reader allows you to receive automatic software updates and upgrades. It provides live chat support to answer questions and provide immediate resolution to any issues or problems you have with the program.

Accelerated Reader also provides software and data hosting.

Cost

Accelerated Reader does not publish their overall cost for the program. However, each subscription is sold for a one-time school fee plus an annual subscription cost per student. There are several other factors that will determine the final cost of the programming including the length of the subscription and how many other Renaissance Learning programs your school has.

Research

To date, there have been 168 research studies that support the overall effectiveness of the Accelerated Reader program. The consensus of these studies is that Accelerated Reader is fully supported by scientifically based research. In addition, these studies concur that the Accelerated Reader program is an effective tool for boosting students’ reading achievement.

Overall Assessment

Accelerated Reader can be an effective technological tool for motivating and monitoring a student’s individual reading progress. One fact that can’t be ignored is the program’s immense popularity. Observations show that this program benefits many students, but the overuse of this program can also burn many students out. This speaks more to how the teacher is using the program than it does to the overall program itself.

The fact that the program allows teachers to quickly and easily assess whether a student has read a book and the level of understanding they have from the book is a valuable tool. Overall, the program is worth four out of five stars. Accelerated Reader can have immense benefits for younger students but can lack in maintaining its overall benefits as students get older.