AR for PSLA 2010


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The purpose of this session is to define what AR (Accelerated Reader) is and isn’t, to share the research behind AR, to get into some of the details about how AR works, and to discuss how an AR program could help create and support a culture of reading.

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  • I want to welcome you to this session and thank-you for coming. The purpose of this session is to define what AR (Accelerated Reader) is and isn’t, to share the research behind AR, to get into some of the details about how AR works, and to discuss how an AR program could help create and support a culture of reading. Let’s start by finding out who we are and what type of background we come from.
  • Are your books lexiled? What procedure/method do you use to determine how many books are needed for your low level readers? How do you determine what reading level is comfortable for a student? How do you determine which books match that comfort zone?
  • Accelerated Reader (AR) – also known as Renaissance Place or Enterprise – is a Reading Management program. Accelerated Reader (AR) has four components: Students are provided with substantial access to books. Students read books that they select themselves (AR recommends one hour per day for free voluntary reading.) The amount of successful reading students complete is measured by points received from taking tests on content of the books, tests that focus on literal meaning. Teachers monitor test results and guide struggling readers to books that ensure successful and continuous reading. AR is not a direct instruction reading program and it’s not a true FVR program either. According to What Works Clearinghouse , the Accelerated Reader program is a guided reading intervention in which teachers are closely involved with student reading of text. Let’s see what our backgrounds are with direct instruction, FVR, WWC, and guided reading intervention.
  • These are among 25 Beginning Reading Programs researched by What Works Clearinghouse . WWC was established by the U.S. Department of Education and the Institute of Education Sciences and is a trusted source of scientific evidence for what works in education. “Trusted” as in this is what District Superintendents and building Principals check before deciding whether another new program should be bought and taught. <> Other trusted sources of scientific evidence for what works in education include: Florida Center for Reading Research and National Center for Student Progress Monitoring among others. The AR program is NOT a direct reading instruction program as in it’s not a skill and drill program. When used correctly it’s more of a guided reading intervention program. Later we’ll talk more about direct instruction versus guided intervention. First, what does the research say about these direct instruction – skill and drill programs -- and AR:
  • Two different AR studies met the WWC evidence standards in a July 2007 report on Beginning Reading. One of the studies evaluated 572 students from grades K-3 attending 11 schools in a southern school district in the US. The second study included 32 students in grade 3 attending one school in the Pacific Northwest. According to those What Works Clearinghouse studies, students using the AR program improved their comprehension an average of 12 percentile points. You can see how other programs scored as well. (I didn’t check how many studies met WWC evidence standards for any of these other programs.) <>
  • According to those same two 2007 What Works Clearinghouse AR studies, students using the AR program improved their general reading achievement an average of 17 percentile points. WWC considers the extent of evidence for AR to be medium to large for comprehension and small for reading fluency and general reading achievement. AR was found to have mixed effects on comprehension and potentially positive effects on general reading achievement. <>
  • “ In 1983 [27 years ago] the Commission on Reading acknowledged that by focusing exclusively on drill and skill in the reading process, we had created school-time readers instead of lifetime readers. Research by the American Publishers Association showed that, during the year 1990, [20 years ago] 60% of American households did not buy a single book – hardcover or paperback – and most did not subscribe to a newspaper.” (xi) “ Two factors make up what might be called a “lifetime reader” formula: 1. Human beings – be they five-year-olds or fifty-five-year-olds – will only do over and over what brings them pleasure. 2. Like driving a car or swimming, reading is an accrued skill. That is, in order to get better at it, one must do it as much as possible. The only way to improve from a 4th grade reading level (achieved by 90% of American students) to an 8th grade level (75%) to a 12th grade level (25%) is by reading. And the more you read, the better you get at it. The better you get at it, the more you like it. And the more you like it, the more you do it, ad infinitum .” (xiii) [statistics from 17 years ago] Trelease, Jim. Read All About It . New York: Penguin Books, 1993.
  • AR is not a direct reading instruction program and it is not a true Free Voluntary Reading program, but it DOES have two of the essential components of FVR: 1. Free choice of what to read and 2. Time and place to read. #1 Sustained Silent Reading #2 Drop Everything and Read #3 We All Read “ Free Voluntary Reading means reading because you want to: no book reports, no questions at the end of the chapter. In FVR, you don’t have to finish the book if you don’t like it. FVR is the kind of reading that good readers do obsessively all the time. FVR is one of the most powerful tools we have in language education . . . It will not, by itself, produce the highest levels of competence: rather, it provides a foundation so that higher levels of proficiency may be reached. When FVR is missing, these advanced levels are extremely difficult to attain.” (1) Krashen, Stephen D. Power of Reading: Insights from the Research 2 nd ed. 2004 As the National Reading Panel stated in its 2000 report, Teaching Children to Read , effective reading programs are balanced – they have both direct instruction AND opportunities to apply that instruction in a variety of “natural settings.” One of the primary benefits of AR is that it provides a vehicle for those “natural settings” opportunities. (5) Getting Results with Accelerated Reader . Wisconsin Rapids, WI: Renaissance Learning, 2007.
  • Powerful practice – AR is a management program that provides data to hold students accountable for the habit of reading. AR is not an instructional program – it’s a guided intervention program. Teachers, like librarians, are expected to guide all students to interesting books that they can comfortably and successfully read. Now, back to FVR vs. Direct Instruction vs. AR and what the research says: According to Krashen’s own research and summaries of other researchers’ findings, In-school free reading programs are consistently effective. In 51 out of 54 comparisons (94%), readers do as well as or better than students who were engaged in traditional programs. (3) The obvious conclusion to draw is that the more you practice, the better you get. In 2004 Krashen concluded that before purchasing AR and submitting students to tests, a more prudent policy might be to ensure that high-interest reading material is easily available to students, and that students have time to read and a place to read. (122) The question of interest regarding this issue of AR vs. FVR is whether features such as testing and rewards or recognition make any difference. The obvious study that would settle this is to see whether programs such as AR are better than simply providing more books and more time to read. Unfortunately, this kind of comparison had not been done when Krashen published his findings. (120) Krashen, Stephen D. The Power of Reading : Insights from the Research . 2 nd ed. Westport, Conn.: Libraries Unlimited, 2004.
  • I don’t know whether a study of that type has yet been done, but our purpose isn’t to prove or disprove FVR or Direct Instruction or AR. Our purpose is to find stuff that works. In 2004 Krashen stated there was no evidence based research to prove AR’s success. Three years later, the research was published in WWC that provided Accelerated Reader with the evidence-based success they had been predicating for years in all their sales pitches. For me and the students at GAMS, AR has worked to create a climate for reading and a culture of successful readers. I’ve been in my position as LMS for four years. Before that I was an 8 th grade language arts teacher. My school has been using AR for the past ten years. A number of things happened when I started my LMS position: 1. The principal and vice-principal began to actively support and enforce SSR. They also started to set the stage for a stronger use of the AR program. 2. As part of the stronger use of AR, teachers were required to use STAR and give students their personal reading range each term. 3. We labeled every AR book in the library with its book level and I taught all students how to find books in their personal reading range. In my first two years as LMS, circulation in our LMC almost tripled. -- Yes, there were problems for us with the AR program. A few of the teachers were very vocal with their disagreement and objections. In the early years one of the biggest problems was lack of choices for students in certain reading ranges. One of the most powerful aspects of AR is the amount of choice that a student can have in his/her reading “practice.” AR Enterprise has a bank of quizzes for 110,000 different titles. It is not the teacher’s job to tell the student which book to read or even which book level to read from. It is the teacher/librarian’s job to guide the student to success within their own comfortable reading range.* *If the student can show success outside of that reading range, then it is the teacher/librarian’s job to ignore the range and let the student successfully enjoy reading.
  • Whether you use AR or not, it is vital to the life of your program to have books for every student’s ability and interest.
  • When I moved from 8 th grade Language Arts to Library Media Specialist, I was shocked to get the big picture of how low some of our students really were. Grade equivalency as well as a reading range are easily found in AR reports.
  • Reading is a skill and as with every skill it requires not just instruction but practice. 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.
  • Common sense tells us that whenever we practice a skill, we will get the most from our efforts if we work at the right level. If, for example, a 50-year-old woman is new to weight training, 10-pound weights will likely be more suitable than 30-pound weights. On the other hand, if an athletic 20-year-old practiced only with 10-pound weights, she likely wouldn’t develop to her full potential. The same principal applies to reading. Practicing with books that are too hard results in frustration. Practicing with books that are too easy does little to improve skills and leads to boredom. In the AR program, a reading range for each child is suggested by the STAR program. That reading range is called a ZPD. Based on a concept developed by Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky, the ZPD represents the level of difficulty that is neither too hard nor too easy, and is the level at which optimal learning takes place. The suggested ZPD is a personalized starting place for reading practice and may need to be adjusted over time. It’s just like working with a personal trainer. He’ll do an initial assessment to get you going. But he’ll monitor you closely and make adjustments to your practice routine so that you continuously work within the zone of difficulty that will lead to the greatest gains. (7)
  • ZPD is expressed in a reading range. The range goes from the student’s comfort-recreational-pleasure reading level to his/her instructional reading level. Book level 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. Interest Level is based on content – a book’s themes and ideas – and indicates for which age group a book is appropriate. 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 content, however, is definitely for upper grades. Points are assigned to each book based on its length and difficulty. For example, the Berenstain Bears books, which are about 8,000 words long, are 1-point books. Hank the Cowdog , which is about 23,000 words long, is a 3-point book. The Sun Also Rises , about 70,000 words long, is a 10-point book. Keep in mind that points have nothing to do with quality or popularity. (8)
  • Students “earn” points by taking the AR quiz for the book they have just read. As long as they pass the quiz, they “earn” the same percentage of points as their score. If the student scores 90 percent on a 10-point book, the student “earns” 9 points. Points make it easy to measure 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. It’s true that a student who has earned a large number of points has done quite a bit of reading, but when schools focus primarily on points a couple of things tend to happen: --In their zeal to earn points, able readers read dozens of easy low-point books OR Struggling readers choose high-point books that are too difficult. They lose sight of the real goal which is for them to enjoy reading interesting books at their own level of challenge. --Since only a few students “win,” those who feel they can never win give up. --To try to earn more points, student take quizzes without reading the books, and/or they share answers. You might be tempted to have a student first read books at a 2.8 level, then a 2.9 level, 3.0 level and so on, but research does not show that this kind of progression with library books leads to greater gains. The practice also severely limits a student’s choices and turns reading into a chore. A fundamental principle of AR – and effective education, in general– is that students must become self-directed learners. For this reason, they must know their own ZPD so they can select books that fall within their range.
  • Don’t get sidetracked! Our purpose isn’t to have the best Read Naturally class or the best AR Program – it’s not even to have the most books checked out at one time. Our goal is to create a climate for reading and to grow a culture of readers! Last year in February, Katie Makatche from Warrior Run Middle School sent out a questionaire on the SCHOOLS listserve about creating a culture of reading. Students have to know – they NEED to know – our expectations. How much do we expect them to read? AND, students like adults, need to be held accountable for reaching those expectations. How much time do we give students for book selection? How much time do we give to free voluntary reading? How much time do we spend teaching and encouraging our building staff to create their own climate of reading? Do we have blogs and social networks for book discussions? Is AR or FVR or SSR, etc. a part of that climate? If not, why not?
  • Are there bulletin boards about books, about the enjoyment of reading throughout the school?
  • Are there pictures of students, and teachers, and principals, and custodians, and cafeteria workers, and parents, etc. “Caught Reading!”
  • We recognize our athletes for their achievements and records. It isn’t wrong to recognize our readers for their achievements and records. Keeping it balanced IS important.
  • Are there bulletin boards about books, about the enjoyment of reading within the classrooms?
  • Are books talked about and advertised on student blogs, during morning announcements, in the cafeteria and/or restrooms, etc.?
  • Turning Technologies (Clickers) – I recommend the Radio Frequency package rather than the InfraRed. RF is more expensive but there will be fewer complaints with Radio Frequency and a much higher level of success without the frustration of having to point the clickers at an IR hub. The cost for a Radio Frequency package like we used today was $1,470.00 2Knows Promethean (Eggs) ActivSlate – about $400.00
  • AR for PSLA 2010

    1. 1. Accelerated Reader Holding Students Accountable for the Habit of Reading Vicki Mentzer, LMS Gettysburg Area Middle School, GASD PSLA April 2010
    2. 2. WELCOME! <ul><li>K-3 or Primary </li></ul><ul><li>4-5 or Elementary </li></ul><ul><li>6-8 or Middle </li></ul><ul><li>9-12 / HS </li></ul><ul><li>Other </li></ul>
    3. 3. Do you currently use AR? <ul><li>Yes </li></ul><ul><li>No </li></ul>
    4. 4. To what extent . . . ? <ul><li>Buy individual titles </li></ul><ul><li>AR Enterprise </li></ul><ul><li>STAR </li></ul><ul><li>Building only </li></ul><ul><li>District-wide </li></ul><ul><li>Elementary only </li></ul>
    5. 5. What is AR?
    6. 6. Which beginning reading programs does your school / district use? <ul><li>Read Naturally </li></ul><ul><li>Wilson Reading </li></ul><ul><li>Success for All </li></ul><ul><li>Ladders to Literacy </li></ul><ul><li>Reading Recovery </li></ul><ul><li>Kaplan SpellRead </li></ul><ul><li>Other </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t know </li></ul>
    7. 7. Figure 3. Comprehension: average improvement                                                                                                     Comprehension: Average Improvement
    8. 8. General reading achievement: average improvement
    9. 9. The Power of Reading: Insights from the Research by Stephen D. Krashen <ul><li>Direct Reading Instruction </li></ul><ul><li>versus </li></ul><ul><li>Free Voluntary Reading (FVR) </li></ul>
    10. 10. What Free Voluntary Reading Program(s) does your school or district use? <ul><li>SSR </li></ul><ul><li>DEAR </li></ul><ul><li>WAR </li></ul><ul><li>Other </li></ul><ul><li>None </li></ul>
    11. 11. P_A_T_C_ <ul><li>A A P J </li></ul><ul><li>R C I E </li></ul><ul><li>O A H J </li></ul><ul><li>A E B K </li></ul>
    12. 12. S_L_-_E_E_T_O_ <ul><li>R N O V M U K </li></ul><ul><li>A W B A B G X </li></ul><ul><li>E F S L C I N </li></ul><ul><li>I D B G S I Q </li></ul>
    13. 13. Recommended Number of Books 2 9.0+ 4 6.0-8.9 5 3.0-5.9 8 2.0-2.9 10 0.0-1.9 AR Books per Student Grade Equivalency
    14. 14. GAMS example 438 2 219 9.0+ 1,020 4 255 6.0-8.9 950 5 190 3.0-5.9 136 8 17 2.0-2.9 30 10 3 0.0-1.9 Minimum # of choices in LMC Times Recommended # of AR books # of GAMS students Grade Equivalency
    15. 15. AR is Powerful Practice <ul><li>Right level of difficulty </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Shoe sizes and styles </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Lexiles, reading levels for books </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Cover a sufficient amount of time </li></ul><ul><ul><li>PA RWSL Standards 25 books per year </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Be guided by the instructor </li></ul><ul><ul><li>AR doesn’t teach students to read; the teacher teaches students to read </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>AR supports and enhances basal-reader series and/or other instructional materials. It does not replace them. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Be enjoyable enough to sustain </li></ul><ul><ul><li>FVR </li></ul></ul>
    16. 16. ZPD Zone of Proximal Development
    17. 17. ZPD, BL, IL, and Points <ul><li>Hank the Cowdog BL 4.5 MG 3 points </li></ul><ul><li>The Sun Also Rises BL 4.4 UG 10 points </li></ul><ul><li>Arthur Throws a Tantrum BL 4.9 LG </li></ul>
    18. 18. Focus on Comprehension <ul><li>Avoid these problems with points: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Students choosing inappropriate books </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Less skilled readers remain handicapped </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Students are very tempted to cheat </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Instead, set personalized point goals taking into account each student’s ability level </li></ul><ul><li>Avoid strictly controlling students’ choices within their ZPD </li></ul>
    19. 19. Focus on Comprehension <ul><li>From a student’s viewpoint </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Student quiz </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Student record </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Home Connect </li></ul><ul><li>Facebook fanclubs </li></ul>
    20. 20. What do we do to create a Climate of Reading?
    21. 26. Bibliography <ul><li>Getting Results with Accelerated Reader . </li></ul><ul><li>Krashen, Stephen D. The Power of Reading : Insights from the Research . 2 nd edition. 2004. </li></ul><ul><li>Research Summary : Summarizes more than 240 studies and independent reviews from the What Works Clearinghouse, National Center on Student Progress Monitoring, and Florida Center for Reading Research, among others. September 2007 edition. Wisconsin Rapids, WI: Renaissance Learning. 2007. </li></ul><ul><li>What Works Clearinghouse. <> </li></ul>
    22. 27. Student Response Systems and Presentation Tools <ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>