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Accelerated Reader (AR) is software for primary and secondary schools used for monitoring the practice of reading. It was created by Renaissance Learning, Inc. There are two versions: a desktop version and a web-based version in Renaissance Place, the company's online portal.
Accelerated Reader is a software 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 questions. The software provides information to students regarding reading rates, amount of reading, and other factors related to reading. The purpose of this system is to determine a student's reading skills in comparison to their current school grade and other students of comparative level.
There are three steps to using Accelerated Reader. First, the students must read a fiction or non-fiction book, textbook, or magazine of their own choosing. Teachers should monitor the reading. Second, the students take a quiz on the contents of the book. Teachers can create their own quizzes or use quizzes from the ARI system, if available. Third, the teacher will receive information that is intended to assist and motivate the student with their reading, monitor the individual student's progress, and targeted instructions for students on an individual basis. Reports regarding reading level and comprehension skills are available through the software.
ATOS is a readability formula from Renaissance Learning that generates a readability level for books and is designed to guide students to books suited to their reading abilities. It is a free to use formula that is available that is available at Renaissance Learning's website. Renaissance Learning claims 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 text passages." Books with quizzes in Accelerated Reader are analyzed during the quiz creation process and assigned an ATOS readability level.
The ATOS website is very easy to use and can be used even if you do not have the complete book that you wish to evaluate in a digital file simply by using the alternative "ATOS for Estimated Word Count" tool instead the "ATOS for Entire Book" Link.
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.
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.
The Renaissance Place version of Accelerated Reader also includes quizzes designed to practice vocabulary. The quizzes use words from books, and are 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.
Accelerated Reader reports are generated on demand to 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 available in the Renaissance Place edition can report district-level information.
The TOPS Report (The Opportunity to Praise Students) reports quiz results after each quiz is taken. 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 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. Some teachers were randomly selected to use Accelerated Reader and the others continued the regular curriculum without using the software. Students in classrooms with Accelerated Reader demonstrated gains. Many of the teachers that used the software responded positively to it and indicated that they would continue to use the software.
In another study, Nunnery, Ross, and McDonald (2006) assessed the reading achievement of students in grades 3-6. They assessed the effects of individual, classroom, and school factors that impact reading achievement. Those in Accelerated Reader classrooms still outperformed students in control classrooms. 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.
In a controlled evaluation, Holmes and Brown (2003) found that two schools using the School Renaissance program achieved statistically significant higher standardized test scores when compared with two comparison schools that only used the Renaissance program in a 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)
In 2003, Samuels and Wu  found that, after six months, third- and fifth-grade students who used Accelerated Reader demonstrated twice the gain in reading comprehension as those that did not use Accelerated Reader. The comparison students completed book reports, suggesting 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, the Florida Center for Reading Research,[clarification needed] and the Education Commission of the States. In October 2006, Accelerated Reader was voted one of the best reading software packages for building students' vocabulary and reading comprehension by readers of eSchool News.
In some cases Renaissance Learning provides funding for research studies about the efficacy of the Accelerated Reader software system.
||The neutrality of this section is disputed. (February 2014)|
Educators have argued that the use of Accelerated Reader does not teach reading for comprehension; it only teaches reading for recall. A minimal number of Literacy Skill Quizzes in Accelerated Reader claim to assess higher order thinking skills. Eight Literacy Skill Quizzes have an ATOS level of 1.0-3.0, 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 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. 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.
- A webpage regarding how Accelerated Reader is used.
- A webpage about ATOS.
- Design of Accelerated Reader Assessments
- 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).
- 2006 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."
- 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.
- 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.