Understanding Accelerated Reader(AR)

What is Accelerated Reader (AR)?

Accelerated Reader is a computer based leveled reading program from Renaissance Learning.  It’s used to monitor student reading progress and practice by recommending books based on a student’s reading level, presenting students with quizzes on what they read, and awarding points for quiz completion.  Books are worth varying points.  By earning points, students are able to “move up” levels.  When students move up a level, they receive new reading recommendations.


Teachers and/or administrators can set goals for students including comprehension goals, engaged reading time, and level goals.


How are students’ reading levels assessed for Accelerated Reader (AR)? 

To begin their journey with Accelerated Reader, students usually take Renaissance’s STAR test, an adaptive achievement test similar to the NWEA MAP test.  In addition to the test score, students receive a ZPD, a recommended range of book levels for the student to start at.  Your child’s teacher or administrator will use this to set a “starting point” in the AR program.


How are books leveled with Accelerated Reader(AR)?
Books are leveled using a readability formula that measures the average length of sentences, the average length of the words, and the average difficulty level of the words. 


How do students earn points in Accelerated Reader(AR)?

Students earn points in Accelerated Reader(AR) by reading books within their AR level and completing the quizzes associated with those books.  Each book in the AR Bookfinder is allotted a specific number of points.  For example, Mary Pope Osborne’s “Midlight on the Magic Flute” is considered level 3.7 and is worth 2.0 AR points.  Another book from the same series, “Summer of the Sea Serpent” is considered level 3.9; it is also worth 2 points.  Longer books are worth more points, and shorter books are worth fewer points.  As such, the number of points that a student earns directly correlates to the number of words the student has read.  In order to earn these points, students must complete the quiz.  Earning a 100% on the book’s quiz will earn the student the maximum number of points available. Earning below a 60% on the quiz will not garner any points; however, students may retake the quiz.


Important Notes and Considerations

AR provides teachers and administrators with flexibility.  Accelerated Reader is most often used school-wide rather than in a single classroom.  For that reason, policies related to Accelerated Reader are school-wide.  


Schools may choose to limit the books for which a student receives points for – only allowing students to earn points for books at a specific reading level.  It should be noted that this is generally not recommended; the ZPD is a range of levels because “leveling” a child’s reading is not an exact science.  Moreover, limiting a child to a more finite level significantly limits their reading choice.  This can discourage students from reading.


Some schools try to incentivize student reading by awarding prizes for AR points. Again, this is generally not recommended as the number of points associated with a book are directly related to the length of the book and NOT the quality of the book.  This practice may deter students from reading shorter books, and it may be discouraging to students who are apprehensive about beginning a “bigger book.”  


Grades on quizzes may be used to “drop” a student’s AR level; however, short quizzes on books may not be a strong indication of a student’s comprehension.  


By aligning books with a point-based system, the goal of reading may sway away from reading.  Students may lose intrinsic motivation to read; however, this extrinsic motivation may be beneficial for some reluctant readers. In other cases, students may try to “cheat” the system by sharing answers or looking up answers to questions.  In these cases, students may opt to not read the book (or any books).


Students may begin to associate reading with quiz taking. 


Students may feel limited in their reading selection.  While Accelerated Reader has about 200,000 books catalogued, this is only a small portion of the books written for children.  Moreover, students may be dissuaded from reading a book that peaks their interest because the book is worth fewer points, not within their AR level, or not available for AR points at all.


My child’s school uses AR, what can I do to improve their AR level?

The simplest way to “improve” a student’s AR level is for a student to read books at their AR level and complete the quizzes for those books.  With that said, it’s important not to forget the overall goal – for your child’s reading ability to grow!  If your child wants to read books outside of the AR program, it’s important to not only permit it but to encourage it!  The most important ingredient for reading success is to read-read-read! If you find that the AR program is motivating your child, that’s great.  If it’s not motivating your child to read more, it’s important to explore other ways to encourage your child to read outside of the AR system.  Read Picking the Perfect Book.

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