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A.R. Statistics?
Old 05-28-2007, 07:05 AM
 
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Does anyone know of specific statistics that prove if AR helps with reading ability?

My grade level is really pushing AR next year, yet we can't use the tests for grades. I don't mind using it if it REALLY helps, but at the same time I don't want to spend an enormous amount of energy on one particular area.

They're using the goals of each child and every time a goal is met they'll move a cartoon character (dependent upon their theme) to a higher spot. It's sounds nice, but it also sounds high maintenance to me. I don't HAVE to do it like them, but I'm just wondering if it's worth the time and effort.

How do you monitor/use AR in your classroom?

Thanks


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Old 05-28-2007, 08:32 AM
 
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I've used AR in my classroom for the last five years, and I'm also an AR trainer.

The program is the most help to your low level readers . . . not the lowest of the low, but those who are one to three grades below level.

The main thing is that EVERYONE who is using the program is properly trained. The main reason that people don't see results is that they don't follow the program's guidelines and it turns into a dismal failure.

We use our program as a part of the student grades for language arts class, and I can explain that if you'd like.

We don't use ours as an incentive program at all, but we do have an AR Day at the end of school and a field trip in the middle of the year.

I'd be happy to explain more if you'd like. You can post here or PM me.
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please explain more
Old 05-28-2007, 09:00 AM
 
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I am interested in how AR should be used, so could you explain more please. Thanks!
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I use AR as a grade why not you?
Old 05-28-2007, 09:56 AM
 
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I incorporate AR as part of my reading grade. I give a grade at progress report time and one at the end of the quarter. I actually give 2 grades (4 per quarter) for AR. One grade is for points, if they reach their goal of 13 points they get 100%, 10 out of 13 points get about 77% and so on. The other grade is for comprehension. They receive a percent for their comprehension.

I would like to hear from the trainer also, since we've not had official "training" on how to use the program. You would think for the price of the program they would have staff development for it. If they do we did not sign up.

I still like the program and would like how I could better utilize it.
Thanks.
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AR research
Old 05-28-2007, 10:13 AM
 
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I've read a compilation of research against it in Dick Allington's, What Really Matters for Struggling Readers.


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Tell Me More
Old 05-28-2007, 10:13 AM
 
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We have A/R at our school as well. A couple teachers use it for grading specific stories, for literature circles. But we do not use it as a whole for part of their grade. We track it on their ILP but honestly I don't think many parents understand what all the statistics me. PLEASE fill us in how you have made it successful in your school. I am currently on the language arts committee and would love to share ther information with our team.
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Tell more, please...
Old 05-28-2007, 11:33 AM
 
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I'd love to know more from the trainer, too. We do use AR at my school, however, I am sure we don't use it the correct way. I feel it is a detriment to the LOVE OF READING, and I hate when kids choose a book to read just because it's AR! Yes, the motivation is good for some, but I don't feel like it helps to promote independent reading.....just reading to get stupid little prizes!! Sorry....just my opinion.

Please tell us more about the proper use of AR!
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Old 05-28-2007, 01:15 PM
 
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Yes, I'd love to hear more! We don't use it for grades because in our training we were told not to. Now I'm wondering if you're a trainer, how you use it for a language arts' grade. Can you explain that more?

I have so many great books in my library, but many of them aren't AR books. It saddens me to think those books will be overlooked just because they don't have AR points attached to them. I think that's one reason I'm struggling with AR.

The other reason is because I don't have a huge desire to plug a program if there isn't a grade attached. I realized their learning isn't all about grades, but I also know we barely have time to get in the things we do need to do without adding something else to it. If I thought it would really raise their reading level, then that'd be another story. So far I'm not convinced from anyone I've talked to. In fact, when I looked up the AR website, they don't even have any set statistics that showed me why it's so useful. Their statistics were minimal difference. The main difference was in "immediate feedback" which can be done without it being an AR test. They just compared it to making the child write a book report as opposed to taking the computer test.

I'm not discounting the program completely - I guess I just want to hear some positive convincing feedback that it really makes a difference - enough to take up part of each day.
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Old 05-28-2007, 01:55 PM
 
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You all should feel special . . . normally I get paid to do this.

Here's the condensed version. I run 6 to 12 hour training sessions, so this is just touching the basics.

First, test your students to see where to being with their ZPD levels. The ZPD is the level in which the students should be able to read with slight challenge. More on that later. We use the STAR reading test, but really any test will do. STAR is designed by the AR people, and it gives you ready-to-use results and you can use it as many times as you wish per year. We test three times. It's really handy for those kids who come in during the school year. You can also use the "guess" method where you simply have the child read any book and see how he/she does on the test and adjust from there.

Next, decide how long your students will read DURING SCHOOL every day. AR is NOT--I repeat NOT--designed as a homework or free time reading program. The recommended time for optimal results is 1 hour per day, but in recent years they have added times for 45, 30, and 15 minutes per day. (We use 15 in a 60 minute class period.)

Third, figure the student goals. There is an AR goal setting chart you can find it here http://www.renlearn.com/goalsettingchart.pdf. Student goals are figured based on the student reading level and the time given to read during class.

That's the very, very basic part of setting it up.

Now, I have never used the program in an incentive-based way, so I'm not going to be of much help there. I know lots of elementary schools use it that way, but I work with middle and high schools and the kids aren't in the least bit interested in reading only for incentives. We use a graded program.

The think to remember when grading is that you can't grade on things like number of books read because all the kids have different goals and are reading different kinds of books. The only two items that are the same for all students are the quiz average and the percent of points earned. We give students two 50 point grades per grading period. When we taught on block schedules we used 100 point grades. Just be careful that AR isn't counting more than the percentage of time the students are reading.

For older students I suggest the reading logs only, not the TOPS reports. The elementary teachers like the TOPS reports better than do the secondary. My students fill out a reading log, and I must stamp it for them to go to the library to take a test or exchange a book. I bought two stamps from the office supply store, one says, "Approved" and the other says, "Exchange". I only allow 3 exchanges before a test. Some kids would exchange forever and never finish a book otherwise. Approved lets the librarian know that the child may test. The reading log is great for catching cheaters, too. Some will log into their account, take the test, and then log into a buddy's account and take it again. Reading logs help that . . . plus the fact that the teacher does a "status of the class" every day which helps to know who is reading what.

As far as "rewards" the only think I do is recognize the students who meet all their goals each grading period. I put their names on my AR Stars wall. This year we're also taking all the top readers to the bookstore and giving them $20 to spend on books. Tomorrow it the trip and I'm taking 32 kids. After they shop we're taking them for pizza.

Oh, I almost forgot something really important. Don't get too hung up on the ZPD level for the kids who are reading above grade level. Keeping the low and average kids within their ZPD range keeps them at a challenge level. For the upper kids, the really don't need challenge . . . they just need to keep reading. Some teachers are real sticklers for keeping them in the ZPD level, but it's very discouraging for the highest level readers. For instance, take my 7th grade class. I have kids reading on levels from 3rd grade to grad school. There are lots of high-interest, low level books for the under level kids, but the kids with grad school reading levels are testing into the range where the books are not appropriate for their age levels. In those cases, let them read books on thier grade level, not their reading level.

Anything else?
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"status..."
Old 05-28-2007, 03:10 PM
 
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Could you explain what "status of the class" is? Thank you so much for sharing. Teaching reading in middle school is difficult enough without throwing AR and other programs into it and NOT TRAINING US!!! Your help is greatly appreciated!!!


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AR--early readers
Old 05-28-2007, 03:17 PM
 
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I think my thought on AR is based on my feelings as a first grade teacher. For my kids, I want them to enjoy reading. I don't want them to feel that the reason one reads is to then take a test to see how much they comprehended or how many points they are mastering. For middle school or high school I can see how one might have a different philosophy on its' values. OUR school does require AR. However, I think the teacher needs to decide its' value. I decided for my kids that it becomes an afterthought. I explain to my parents during our parent meeting in the fall how our reading program works. Reading "just right" books, reading independently, reading with a partner, reading conferences, read alouds, shared reading--these are the things I "educate" the parents in. I do explain that we will be doing AR--but later in the year.
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Old 05-28-2007, 04:26 PM
 
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Quote:
However, I think the teacher needs to decide its' value.
That's a good way to see it. Some teachers are all "AR is the only thing". Even with training we have some teachers who stress AR way more than it counts for their grades. My main thing is that I want them to read. If the program is run properly, it doesn't "kill desire" in kids that enjoy reading, either . . . which is a common problem I hear people discuss at trainings. In those cases, it's typically a misrun program. I don't stress AR any more than I stress anything else that we do in class.

Quote:
Could you explain what "status of the class" is?
In a nutshell, it is the teacher monitoring the students. You need to know what students are reading and how they are progressing. I do this by monitoring their reading logs and watching them while they read. I can see that Susie is staring out the window most of the time, Johnny is choosing thinner books because he likes going to and from the library, Mary is choosing books that are too difficult, and Timmy can't remember to bring his book and tries to start a new book every day. I talk with kids about their choices, make recommendations for those who are struggling or aren't sure what genre they enjoy, and ask them about their books.

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Old 05-28-2007, 05:57 PM
 
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I love using AR. I've seen a lot of my students reading levels improve greatly because of it. We don't take grades on it. We reward the students at the end of a grading period if they met their point goal and they had 85% or higher. My students aren't required to read AR books only. I remind them to read other books too because those will help them when they read an AR book. I check the TOPS reports during the day and the students receive m&m's or goldfish if they have 80% or higher. That small daily reward is great motivation to take quizzes even though it isn't much. If they're getting below 80% (I teach 2nd grade so on most of the quizzes if they only miss 1 it's an 80%.) then I talk with them about some better books for them. Next year we're getting all the quizzes AR has so our students will have more to choose from. I'm looking forward to having all those quizzes, just not labeling all those books!
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not statistics, but
Old 05-28-2007, 07:04 PM
 
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I do feel that AR makes my students more accountable for the independent reading they should be doing anyway. I've been through training and feel pretty conversant with the suggested procedures. We do use AR as part of the quarterly reading grade. We take a grade from the avg. %correct, and another from % of goal earned. I get really frustrated with teachers in our bldg. and elsewhere, who set the same point goal for their entire class. The whole idea of the program is to individualize and have kids read what is just right for them. I have one student in my class who earned 75 pts. easily this quarter, and another who had to really work for 6.5. I set individual goals for each student, and often meet with them to discuss what they feel is best for them.
Also, if you're worried about having a limited number of AR books available, check into the AR Renaissance Enterprise system. This is a subscription-based program in which you have access to EVERY AR title. We went from having about 8,000 titles to now having access to over 100,000 titles. It has really helped.
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Old 05-28-2007, 07:08 PM
 
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Thank you for such an understandable and reasonable explanation about AR. I have often wondered about it but my principal suggested it would be too expensive to even consider. Do others feel that it is very expensive? What are the costs? Quizzes, books, license?
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more AR talk
Old 05-29-2007, 07:37 AM
 
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I just had to add my 2 cents worth on this topic. First I believe proper training or explanation of how to run the program is VERY important. We have had it at our school for about 4 years now, and the person before me in the reading position I have hated computers and did nothing with AR with the kids. The librarian wasn't behind it either. When I came to my job this fall, teaching reading, I was asked by admin to put more into AR...well I tried. I did a lot of reading on their website and emailing their support staff. But until I took a 1 day training in FEB!!!, I really didn't make complete sense of everything.

AR is what YOU the teacher, the professional, makes of it. We don't do things 'across' the board with my school, but still the kids are beginning to take hold and see the value of reading more. Our middle school pushes it for grades more than we at the elementary level. I have tried to put a positive spin on increased points or increased tests attempted and passed. We are also buying the full blown web version with access to thousands of tests and vocab tests and other things in the fall, and I think that will help. I don't think it should be used as a hammer over a kid's head, to make them read. It is all in how YOU approach it with your students, unless someone, somewhere is mandating that you do it a certain way. I would have a problem with that.

Good luck with your decisions. Do a bunch of reading on line and that might help.
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Ar
Old 05-29-2007, 10:56 AM
 
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Thanks so much for everyone's input on this! I love hearing the different thoughts and experiences with AR.

Honestly, my administration isn't pushing AR so much as the other teachers on my grade level. It wouldn't be a big deal except that we have a non-graded ability-grouped reading class that we switch classes for (an hour at the start of each day). Some of the other teachers were talking about us using 1/2 of that hour for the kids to do silent AR reading and take any AR tests during that time. I don't know how I feel about that. I teach the highest reading level and those kids don't need motivation to read - they love reading! I'd rather see that hour spent on skills instead of independent reading. I have silent reading at the end of the day while waiting on busses, and I like it that way - but I can't justify silent reading twice a day.

Anyway.....I digress...... I guess I said all that to say that after talking to those teachers (whom I'm friends with - we just have different viewpoints) I want reassurance that this is the best way to handle AR and our reading program in general. I researched (like I mentioned earlier) the AR program and honestly it doesn't convince me on its own statistics.

I hate to "experiment" with kids, but I guess I'll try it their way and see how it goes. I just feel like parents aren't going to be too happy to hear the kids are spending their ability-grouped reading class time reading silently.
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Old 05-29-2007, 03:45 PM
 
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You might want to consider buying the Power Lesson books from Renaissance Learning. They have lots of activities that you can use with the AR books.

Also, with my high level classes I often used literacy circles with them, and the AR test just happened to be what they took after we finished with everything else about the book. That's another option to make it not "just reading".

Oh, and one year my really high level readers LOVED going to the library and getting "non AR" books and writing tests for them. I'm part of a test-sharing network where teachers can write tests for books and put them in their AR programs.
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AR program
Old 06-02-2007, 08:41 PM
 
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Thank you so much for explaining the program. I have been working in a middle school for 2 years now where everyone is really into the program. I have really been struggling to make it work, but I have the lowest readers in 6th grade. I really like the "status of the class" suggestions because I have "readers" who just look at the ceiling or out the window during AR reading time. I wish I had been sent to a training, but now that you explained it so well I hope that next year I can make it work.
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Old 06-03-2007, 08:06 PM
 
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We've been using A.R. in my system for about ten years now. We may have helped pilot the program, it's been so long now! It is a HUGE deal in our county's 15 elementary schools and the middle schools as well. I see both sides of the coin. The idea is that the more a child practices reading, the natural result is improvement. Makes sense, but in my school it's such a push- with rewards, field trips, prizes, the whole nine yards- that kids FLY through a book just to rack up bajillions of points and don't allow the books to have meaning. The test results often reveal this with low scores. Plus, it's sad when the first thing the kids ask when I want to read a new chapter book read-aloud is, "Is it A.R.?". If it's not, they don't want to hear it. And some lower grade teachers compete so strongly for points that they're reading 'Holes', 'Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing', and 'The Lion,the Witch, and the Wardrobe' to second graders for the high point value so that by the time I get them as fourth graders they've heard everything-even though it was way over their heads at the time! ...We have a school-wide A.R. theme (we all decorate our rooms for it) and lots of rallies and assemblies for it. So I, too, would really love to know once and for all if it really is statistically proven to improve reading skills. Oh, and by the way, EVERY seminar on A.R. I've attended and EVERY manual on A.R. from Renaissance Learning says you DO NOT take grades for it, so I'm shocked that so many apparently do! We've been told not to by our administration in no uncertain terms, and with the ease some children have in cheating on A.R. (sharing answers or even taking a test for a friend-all they need to know is his or her password) it seems like a bad idea all around.
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GoVols: Research
Old 06-04-2007, 01:46 PM
 
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I'm sure this isn't "once and for all research", but I really respect Dick Allington. If you've never read his stuff, he's really good at looking at all the research on reading from way back in the 80's up until now. He truly looks at if the study was done with fidelity and if it was peer reviewed by plenty of outside sources. He does the background work and find out when studies are done "in-house" (meaning by the company who makes the program). Here's what he has to say about it:

"It is widely implemented but almost no published research is available that supports its use. In both these cases (referring to AR and Waterford Early Reading Program), newsletters or privately produced in-house magazines routinely offer testimonials, case studies, and reports of achievement effects. But publishing a positive puff-piece in an in-house magazine or newsletter does not offer the same sort of evidence of effects as would independent studies published in recognized, peer-reviewed research journals." (page 12, 13 What Really Matters for Struggling Readers)


Later in the book:

"Some of the most popularly used materials and activities offered no instructional component either. For instance, neighter the Accelerated Reader materials nor the Barnell-Loft materals provide anything but activities that assess student strategy use. I call these "assign and assess" materials because no instruction is provided. Many students seem not to discover these strategies without teacher demonstration. "(page 121)

I don't feel that Dick Allington is necessarily saying anything that negative about AR. What he is saying (of course, I'm reading between the lines) is that AR is implemented in a really full-force way in a whole lot of schools for something that does not have a good research base. His second point, later in the book, is simply that in some schools, programs like AR are implemented as a big part of the reading program, without explicit, demonstration for students in what it looks like to be a reader. Children are simply told to read.

I personally feel that your case is tragic... those kids are getting pushed through with a totally warped sense of what reading is.
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Old 06-04-2007, 09:39 PM
 
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I really appreciate this thread. I have mixed emotions about AR. We have it in our school, along with incentives for 100pt club, etc. It has helped encourage our slower readers to read, I think, but it has really limited the range of books they choose. THe first thing anyone says "is it AR?" and that annoys the heck out of me. SO many quality books are not on our system.

I also think the comprehension questions are very low level and kids miss out on so much of the book by reading to answer simple comprehension/recall questions.

Our librarian, a big proponent of the program, wanted me to require AR points instead of regular reading logs that I use to "test" them to be sure they have been reading their homework. I declined.

I am really torn. I sort of wish our school didn't have this program, but I can see that it has encouraged a few of our readers to read. *However* I think for many others, reading has lost its intrinsic value and gained an extrinsic reward. Not a good direction to go, imo.
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