By Jessica Sanders
Accelerated Reader has “no discernible effects on reading fluency or comprehension for adolescent learners,” according to an August 2010 program review by the Institute of Education Sciences.
That’s not all; many educators find that the program has many negative effects in their classrooms. If you use AR, then you will probably find these memes are all too familiar.
1. Students end up reading for points and prizes, turning reading into a chore.
“His less conscientious classmates choose books from the AR list, but compare that list to the Netflix/movie list in order to “finish” a Harry Potter book in about 2 hours. They basically game the system as much as possible.” —Sandra Stotsky, Department of Education Reform, University of Arkansas
2. It makes more work for teachers—who already have no time.
“I had to put reading-level dots on the books, manually enter the 6th graders into the program, collect donations and supplies for the AR store each semester, shut down the library to run the store for six instructional days, and keep track of all the kids points from purchases.” —Tara, The Librarian Who Doesn’t Say Shhh!
3. With a limited book selection, students lose their power of choice.
“His teacher made him start on books on the 4.5 level and wouldn’t let him step up to the next level until he had passed off his tests perfectly. He was bored and would come home crying every day the first two months cause he was frustrated with the restrictions.” —Royleane E. Otteson, Parent
4. Students can’t read above their “reading level.”
“My 4th grader has the dubious honor of being able to read on about the 6-7th grade level. So the grade level he is restricted to is at the 5-7th grade range. If he reads anything at too low a level, he doesn’t get enough points.” —Dick Dalton, Special Education Teacher
5. The multiple-choice questions don’t encourage higher-level thinking.
“These questions, there are five total, are about various things that happened in the book that don’t delve into any kind of an analysis. Basically, they are memory recall questions.” —Kim Jaxon, Parent
6. It’s expensive.
“First, a school must buy the program and pay to support it each year. Then the school must buy a test for every library book purchased. At around $2.99 a pop, these tests don’t come cheap. For the price of five AR tests, an additional fiction book could be purchased for the library instead.” —Tara, The Librarian Who Doesn’t Say Shhh!
7. Point levels for books are often inaccurate.
“Scanning the lists also gives you an idea of how well Renaissance’s proprietary reading level software ATOS works. For instance, the Crucible scores a lowly 4.9– lower than the Fault in our Stars (5.5) or Frankenstein (12.4) but still higher than Of Mice and Men (4.5). Most of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books come in in the mid-5.somethings. So if the wimpy kid books are too tough for your students, hit them with Lord of the Flies which is a mere 5.0 even.” —Peter Greene, Author and High School Teacher
8. Multiple-choice is punitive and makes students feel like failures.
“But more importantly, he was humiliated when he didn’t earn enough points to join in the monthly party or get to ‘buy’ things with those points at a school store full of junky prizes.” —Jen Marten, Teacher and Parent
9. Students choose the books that give them the most points.
“Every book in the AR system carries the go-get-‘em marketplace “sell” of reading-for-rewards, provoking an AR -designated 4.8 reader to go for the nine points payoff attached to for Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, instead of the paltry one point each for the age-appropriate Stone Fox or Harry Kitchen and Tucker Mouse.” – Susan Ohanian, Reading Teacher