|Stable release||6.36 / 12/4/0g system = Windows, Mac|
Accelerated Reader (AR) is a progress monitoring software assessment in wide use by primary and secondary schools for monitoring the practice of reading. It was created by Renaissance Learning, Inc. Currently, there are two versions: a desktop version and a web-based version in Renaissance Place, which hosts the company's web software for Accelerated Reader and a number of other software products (e.g. Accelerated Math).
Accelerated Reader is a software assessment tool that assesses a student's reading level, suggests titles of books at that level, and then assess whether a student has completed reading the book by asking a series of quiz questions. The software provides additional information to students regarding reading rates, amount of reading, and other variables related to reading. Renaissance Learning does not require or advocate the use of incentives with the assessment, although it is a common misperception.
There are three steps to using Accelerated Reader. First, students choose and read a fiction or non-fiction book, textbook, or magazine. Teachers monitor reading including guided, paired, literature-based, and textbook reading. Second, students take a quiz. Teachers can create their own quizzes for those not available in Accelerated Reader. Third, the teacher receives information that is intended to assist, motivate reading, monitor progress, and target instruction. Reports regarding reading level and comprehension skills are available through the software.
ATOS, similar to Lexile, is a readability formula that results in a readability level for books. Unlike Lexile, ATOS is an open and free to use readability level. The purpose of ATOS is to assist with guiding students to books suited to their reading abilities. Renaissance Learning reports that "ATOS is the first formula to include statistics from actual student book-reading (more than 30,000 students, reading almost 1,000,000 books), not just data based on short test passages." Books with quizzes in Accelerated Reader are analyzed during the quiz creation process and assigned an ATOS readability level.
Specifically, ATOS Readability Formula for Books is the readability formula that provides reading levels based on the entire contents of books. ATOS for Books with Estimated Word Count is a variation of the original formula that does not require the entire text of a book (it requires at least 3 samples of 150 words and an estimate of the entire book's word count). ATOS for Text is a formula for short stories, magazine and newspaper articles, test items, and other materials. The ATOS Analyzer is software that "provides an ATOS reading level for text submitted for analysis."
Quizzes are also available on textbooks, supplemental materials, and magazines. Most are in the form of reading practice quizzes, although some are curriculum-based with multiple subjects. Magazine quizzes are available for old magazines as well as on a subscription basis for new magazines. The subscription quizzes include three of the Time for Kids series magazines, Cobblestone, and Kids Discover.
As of Accelerated Reader version 6.x, many of the company's quizzes are available in an optional recorded voice format for primary-level books, in which the quiz questions and answers are read to the student taking the quiz. These quizzes are designed to help emerging English readers take the quizzes without additional assistance.
In addition to regular reading quizzes, the Renaissance Place version of Accelerated Reader includes quizzes designed to practice vocabulary. The quizzes use words from books, and should be taken after the book has been read. Bookmarks can be printed out that display the vocabulary words so that, as students read, they can refer to the bookmark for help. The quizzes keep track of words learned, and reviews are suggested every so often.
Depending on school policy, an Accelerated Reader test for an individual book can be taken once or up to several times. But it can only be taken once in each category. For instance, the student could take one vocabulary quiz, one reading practice quiz, etc.
Accelerated Reader reports are generated on demand and help students, teachers, and parents monitor student progress. More than 30 reports are available regarding student reading, comprehension, amount of reading, diagnostic information, and other variables. Customizable reports are available in the Renaissance Place edition and can report district-level information.
The TOPS Report (The Opportunity to Praise Students) reports quiz results after each quiz is taken. This allows students to immediately review specific concepts with which they had difficulty, and to alert teachers to anyone having difficulty. Diagnostic Reports identify students in need of intervention based on various factors. The Student Record Report is a complete record of the books the student has read.
A number of studies have been conducted regarding the effectiveness of using Accelerated Reader in the classroom. The company's webpage includes a searchable list of research articles. The ERIC educational database also includes numerous research articles on Accelerated Reader. Links to both are at the end of this article. Below is a sample of some of the current research (within the last four years) available on Accelerated Reader. The following two studies were reviewed by the What Works Clearinghouse and were found to meet their high standards for research.
Ross, Nunnery, and Goldfeder (2004) studied 1,665 students and 76 teachers (grades K-6) from 11 schools in Memphis, Tennessee. Many of the students were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. Teachers were randomly assigned to use Accelerated Reader or to continue regular curriculum without the software. Students in classrooms with Accelerated Reader demonstrated gains. Additionally, many of the teachers responded positively to the software and highly supported the software. Many also indicated that they would continue to use the software.
In another study, Nunnery, Ross, and McDonald (2006) used hierarchical linear modeling to assess the reading achievement of students in grades 3-6. This model incorporated the effects of individual, classroom, and school variables that impact reading achievement. Regardless, those in Accelerated Reader classrooms still outperformed students in control classrooms. Furthermore, students with learning disabilities in very high implementation classrooms did not suffer from their disabilities as much as similar students in low or no implementation classrooms.
Other evaluation studies
In a controlled evaluation, Holmes and Brown (2003) found that two schools using the School Renaissance program achieved significantly higher standardized test scores when compared with two contrast schools that were using the Renaissance program in a very limited way. Because so many schools in the United States are using Accelerated Reader, it was difficult for the authors of this study to find two schools in Georgia that were not already using Accelerated Reader. The authors noted:
- "In all nine comparisons involving standardized test scores in reading, language arts, and mathematics, the Renaissance schools' children outperformed the contrast school's children. It can only be concluded that the Renaissance program was highly effective in raising the performance of these elementary students." (Holmes & Brown, 2003)
Samuels and Wu have completed a number of studies on Accelerated Reader with positive results. In 2003, they found that, after six months, third- and fifth-grade students that used Accelerated Reader demonstrated twice the gain in reading comprehension as those that did not use Accelerated Reader. The comparison students completed book reports, relaying that delayed feedback through book reports is not as useful as the immediate feedback provided by Accelerated Reader. In another study, Samuels and Wu (2004) found students in Accelerated Reader classrooms, after controlling for the amount of time spent reading each day, outperformed students in control classrooms.
The National Center on Student Progress Monitoring has reviewed Accelerated Reader, and found that it meets 5 out of 7 of its progress monitoring criteria. Accelerated Reader has also been reviewed by the What Works Clearinghouse and the Florida Center for Reading Research.
Additionally, the Education Commission of the States has reviewed the software. In October 2006, Accelerated Reader was voted as one of the best reading software packages for building students' vocabulary and reading comprehension by readers of eSchool News. Accelerated Reader has appeared on previous eSchool News surveys as well.
In some cases Renaissance Learning provides funding for research studies about the efficacy of the Accelerated Reader software system. This is a common practice in most industries, including the educational technology industry, since there are significant costs and generally no monetary rewards connected with independent academic research.
Educators have argued that the use of Accelerated Reader does not teach reading for comprehension; it only teaches reading for recall. A minimal amount of Literacy Skill Quizzes in Accelerated Reader claim to assess higher order thinking skills. When searching for these Literacy Skill Quizzes that have an ATOS level of 1.0-3.0, eight quizzes were found, which provides limited support for higher order thinking skills for developing readers. Renaissance Place includes recognizing setting and understanding sequence as examples of higher order thinking. Turner and Paris’s (1995) study on the role of classroom literacy tasks is particularly relevant. Their vignettes describing open versus closed tasks may inform how we consider Accelerated Reader. In this program, students usually take end-of-book tests called Reading Practice Quizzes that are composed of admittedly literal-recall questions. There is only one specific correct answer to each question. These quizzes would be classified as “closed tasks” using Turner and Paris’s definition (1995, p. 664). Turner and Paris went on to conclude that open-ended tasks are more supportive of literacy growth in the future. “The motivational outcomes of literacy tasks influence how students interpret their roles in learning to read. Those interpretations can affect their desire to persist and to remain involved in literacy.” (1995, p. 671) This prompts some educators to refrain from using Accelerated Reader quizzes because the fear is that students are being trained to perceive the purpose of reading as answering literal-recall questions and possibly lose the desire to read.
Florida Center for Reading Research, citing two studies that support the product (provided it has been implemented correctly), noted both the lack of available books in a school's library and the lack of assessment of "inferential or critical thinking skills" as weaknesses of the software. Nonetheless, their guide also noted a number of strengths of the software, including its ability to motivate students and provide immediate results on students' reading habits and progress.
Renaissance Learning, the product's developer, has stated that its intended purpose is to assess whether or not a student has read a book, not to assess higher order thinking skills, to teach or otherwise replace curriculum, to supersede the role of the teacher, or to provide extrinsic reward. The Literacy Skill Quizzes do attempt to assess higher-order thinking skills, even though this isn't intended purpose of the program. Nonetheless, educator and reading advocate Jim Trelease describes Accelerated Reader, along with Scholastic's Reading Counts!, as "reading incentive software" in an article exploring the pros and cons of the two software packages. Similarly, Stephen D. Krashen, in a 2003 literature review, asserts that reading incentives is one of the aspects of Accelerated Reader. In this review, Krashen reiterates prior research stating that reading for incentives does not create long-term readers. However, as noted above, Renaissance Learning does not promote the use of incentives, and the software can be used without incentives.
Use of the program has been criticized as preventing children from reading from a variety of difficulty levels. As an example, research from Scholastic indicates that 39% of children between the ages of five and ten have read a Harry Potter novel, with 68% of students in that age range having an interest in reading or re-reading a Harry Potter book. For example, the ATOS reading level of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is 5.5 (with ATOS numbers corresponding to grade levels). This would indicate that students below that grade range may not be able to read and comprehend the book. Since teachers, parents and student use readability levels to select books, this may discourage students from reading the book, as the student is under pressure to earn Accelerated Reader points during the school year, although students can take tests and earn points for books at any ATOS level.
- Abstract of a 1997 report, originally published by The Institute for Academic Excellence, Inc., and republished by Renaissance Learning, covering the use of rewards with Accelerated Reader. An e-mail address is given to request a copy of the report.
- A webpage regarding how Accelerated Reader is used.
- A webpage about ATOS.
- Design of Accelerated Reader Assessments A revised document that describes the components of Accelerated Reader (including quizzes), the quiz development process, and the chosen method for addressing particular issues. It asserts that the purpose of Accelerated Reader is to assess whether the student has read the book.
- A webpage about Accelerated Reader reports.
- Press release about the What Works Clearinghouse
- Nunnery, Ross, & McDonald (2006) research paper (PDF).
- Research papers by Samuels and Wu.
- Samuels & Wu (2003) research paper (PDF).
- Samuels & Wu (2004) research paper (PDF).
- A summary, hosted at the University of Dundee, of a number of studies that involved Keith Topping.
- A report from Keith Topping, describing Accelerated Reader.
- Press release about NCSPM review
- Florida Center for Reading Research report
- A report from ECS (Education Commission of the States). Please note that some of the information in this article is out of date (e.g., the pricing models).
- 2006 Best Reading Software, a survey of those who read eSchool News.
- 2004 Best Reading Software, a survey of those who read eSchool News.
- A mailing list from a teacher critical of Renaissance Learning's Accelerated Reader and Accelerated Math software packages.
- , Review Pages 6 & 7 of Accelerated Reader Advanced Topics: Literacy Skill Quizzes PowerPoint.
- The Florida Center for Reading Research is a "Florida State University Center."
- An excerpt from Jim Trelease's Read-Aloud Handbook, covering "computerized 'reading incentive' programs." Please note that this review is severely out of date (e.g., the author cites "Advantage Learning Systems" as the proprietor of Accelerated Reader).
- An article by Stephen D. Krashen titled "Does Accelerated Reader Work?" Please note that certain studies were not reviewed, which may result in a biased viewpoint, and that new studies have been conducted since this review.
- Scholastic Presentation By Yankelovich 2006, slide 16
- Holmes, C.T., & Brown, C.L. (2003). A Controlled Evaluation of a Total School Improvement Process, School Renaissance. Technical Report. Athens, GA: University of Georgia.
- Nunnery, J.A., Ross, S.M., & McDonald (2006). A randomized experimental evaluation of the impact of Accelerated Reader/Reading Renaissance implementation on reading achievement in grades 3-6. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk, 11(1), 1-18.
- Ross, S.M., Nunnery, J., & Goldfeder, E. (2004). A randomized experiment on the effects of Accelerated Reader/Reading Renaissance in an urban school district: Final evaulation report. Memphis, TN: University of Memphis, Center for Research in Educational Policy.
- Samuels, S.J., & Wu, Y. (2003). The effects of immediate feedback on reading achievement. Manuscript submitted for publication, University of Minnesota.
- Samuels, S.J., & Wu, Y. (2004). How the amount of time spent on independent reading affects reading achievement: A response to the National Reading Panel. Unpublished manuscript, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, Department of Educational Psychology
- Turner, J., & Paris, S. G. (1995). How literacy tasks influence children's motivation for literacy. The Reading Teacher, 48(8), 662-673.