Are any of you familiar with the AR program? I have a serious question I want to ask at the risk of sounding like a spoiled sport, but I am truly boggled by this. Here's the situation. We have a new group of 2nd grade teachers at my school. While we have been doing the AR program for many years at my school, these teachers have come in and their 2nd grade students are accumulating massive numbers of AR points. Now, I teach 5th grade and my students are real readers. With all their reading, and some of their books are big point books, we have only accumulated like 700 points for our class. Today it was announced that one of the 2nd grade classes has now got 1,000 points ( after just 2 months of school) and the other 3 classes are not far behind. They just leave us in the dust. I don't understand that....Their books are only .5 books. How can a classroom of 25 second graders earn this many points in this amount of time??? I KNOW how hard my students read. They all even read an 11 point book and tested on that....and STILL we're behind the 2nd graders. Do you know how many books each of them would have to read to equal our 11 point book???? I"m just wondering how they do it?? Any ideas???? Is it even matematically possible???? Someone who can figure this out please clue me in!!!
I'm an AR trainer, so I'll be happy to answer any AR questios whenever I can.
Keep in mind that their books are shorter, and they can read a higher volume of books. Of course, there are always going to be "point hogs" . . . those kids who read and read and read just to earn points, which regard to striving to 85% of higher scores and moving up in book level.
I stress quiz grades, points, and then book level . . . in that order. We also don't reward our kids for reading based only on points, just to deter the "point hogging" issue.
At my daughter's school, her students can earn A.R. points for some of the stories that they read in the basel reader. I know it's not much,
but if the whole class does it, it could add up. Just a thought.
Are your students passing their test because, as you know, if they don't pass, they don't get the points.
If the teacher reads even one book a day to them and they test on that book, even at .5 the points will add up. 20 kids times .5 is 10 points a day. Multiply that by 40 days and you already have 400 points. And if the teachers are reading the tests to the class, there is a chunk of your points. I have a strong suspicion that is what is happening.
Our second grade teacher does not do this, but, the first grade teacher allows the students to take tests on books read to them at home. We have older kids reading the test to them. These students are all non-readers. I took the training about 100 years ago. but at that time it was permissible. I allow my 5th and 6th graders to take tests on novels I read to them and novels they read in class. Obviously that is only a small part of their goal.
This is why I hate AR. It is not used correctly and it just becomes a game to earn points and get stupid prizes. I'm the librarian and I have to play the game!!! I hate telling kids they have to get a certain book because they must take a test. We are making reading somthing they must do, not somthing they want to do.
Thanks you guys for your responses. I'm sorry to say that I have become so disillusioned with this program for the very reason that Mary Ruth mentioned. It just turns already competitive teachers into a den of sharks! I was involved in a conversation with our school counselor yesterday and this issue came up. She informed me that our 2nd grade reading scores for last year turned out to be the lowest in the entire district!! Now what does that say to you? Keep in mind that our school is consistently a level 5 school and has been since they started ranking us. Our 2nd grade reading scores have ALWAYS been in the top 1 or 2 for our rather large school district. Now they're at the bottom?????? The counselor said it was apparent there was no teaching going on. That's when the AR program loses it's intended purpose. Ultimately, those kids that are awarded all those silly prizes are losers because they aren't being taught. How can that be right???
You can't let something like this bother you. Last year in 3rd grade I had a class of readers. I had one boy that earned 1,200 points in one school year. I had 5 others that had over 300 points. This year I do not have big readers, but the 4th grade teachers are getting the bigger numbers. Is it just a class that really likes to read? If so, you will reap the benefits in a few years. Maybe, the teachers read big books aloud to the students and they are taking the test on the books. Don't let it get to you. Can you pull up their reports and look for yourself if you are really curious?
I can see where schools/kids can get caught up in the whole point business. I can also see where AR can be misused in other ways. I have also dealt with a very comptetive teacher at my own grade level whose kids were racking up waaaay more points than anyone else. Of course, checking into that I found that the kids were only averaging 60% or reading waaay below their level. Total misuse.
But in my school (low-income, ESL, illiterate parents) the AR program has really encouraged the children to develop the love and habit of reading. Many of these children do not have books at home and/or are not read to either. We don't make a real big deal out of the points...but they do earn dog tags to wear on a chain when they reach certain levels. They love being able to read books at their own level and they love taking the quizzes on the computer and getting immediate feedback. They really, really do read! The AR librarian usually closes the library several weeks before the end of school and the kids still keep reading! I love it! I also love having to say "will you please put that book away!" when I am trying to get them to transition. I also get tickled to see some of them "sneak read" under their table thinking I am not going to notice. There is no question of what to do if they finish a written task early....they read. We did not see these behaviors before AR so I contribute them to the program. Prior to this I felt like I was forcing them to participate in DEAR time. I saw a lot of mindless page turning and not real reading.
Sadly, our district has decided this year not to renew our web-based AR program due to financial limitations. So the children have not been able to take quizzes.
At my previous school we were just about all on board with Genre BINGO. Instead of focussing on AR points, the students met a BINGO sheet with different Genres listed. (Fiction, Mystery, Poetry, Cook Book, Comic, etc) Now that I have switched schools, we are about POINTS-POINTS-POINTS. I am on the AR comm. and have tried to introduce the Genre BINGO-but no takers. The previous year, all the kids loved the idea of reading things other than AR. They actually read! I am really trying to decide if I want to do this in my class for the last half of the year--and risk getting my hands popped. Or just say "READ ONLY AR!" and be the AR Police. UGH
Is there a contest going on at your school? There are too many ways to get around the AR system. If teachers allow their students to read books below their level, too many students will just read to get the points. These second grade students could be reading books that are on a Kindergarten level worth .5 points. They could have books read to them at home and take the test with help (book buddies) at school. If the school is having a contest, rules should be in place. Perhaps this would be okay for first and second grade, just as long as everyone knows what the rules are. Reading, and the love of reading, is what should be stressed.
I have AR at my school and I am VERY competitive with the other 5th grade teachers. I have 24 students and only 22 on AR, the highest point total in my room is 58.6. The other room has ALL 25 on AR and someone has 177.5 points. I make it a friendly competition between classes. All the students know that the teachers compete and then they read even more to compete- especially the ones with higher points already.
I also have raffles every Friday for those who have at least 20 points. They read to try and achieve this.
To answer your question about bookadventure.com, my son has AR at his school and his teacher has also given him a password for bookadventure. The problem with this is that he can take the tests at home and it encourages cheating. I won't let my son do it, but it does encourage others that may try it. There are a lot of tests on bookadventure that are not on AR, such as the Harry Potter books. I know they are AR, but his school has not bought the tests.
I DO like AR- if it is used properly. At this point in the year, I won't let my students read below a 3.5 book level to get points. Anybody else have standards for AR?
I am not AR trained and have not really researched the program, so I can only comment on how the program is run at my school rather than on the program as a whole. At my school, the librarian does not allow students to check out books that are not on their level. This bothers me so much that I often "forget" to go to the library and encourage students to check books out from my classroom library. I teach fourth grade but have several students reading below 2.0. with 2 students reading below 1.0. Books on this level are not enticing for fourth graders to read and can actually cause embarrassment for students who are forced to check them out.
I am also bothered by the competetive nature of the way the program is run at my school. Students who have met a set goal each month have their names listed under a bulletin board heading of "Our School's Great Readers" for all to see. The implication being, if your name is not listed, you must not be a good reader.
I just don't know where teachers find the time for students to test so often. My class is busy all day long and I rarely have extra time for students to take AR tests. I do not set point goals for my students for this very reason. Classes with extremely high point totals give me cause for concern. If they have time for students to test all day, when are they actually teaching?
I would suggest that you attend a training. It will really help with management of the program, including the "when do we test" issue that you mentioned.
As for the students with low reading levels, they are the ones who especially need to read within their ZPD levels. Our librarian bought lots of low-level high-interest books for our middle school. The lowest are written on second grade level. Any middle school students we have reading below that level are in the special education program, and they do not participate in the AR program.
While I don't recommend being the "AR Police" and making every child read and AR book within his/her ZPD level every time, that's how it needs to work for the most benefit. It's still an individual program, and you have to know your kids. I have one 7th grader with a college reading level who is not interested in ANY of the books that we have in our library. She does, however, always have a book in hand. I feel no need to force her to read AR books because she's already "accelerated" in her reading, and she's enjoying reading. She was worried about her grade in the beginning because she wasn't reading AR books and AR is a grade . . . and then we had a talk about things and she's fine.
I only have my students for 60 minutes per day, and they get 15 to 20 minutes to read every day. During that time they exchange books, take tests, and read. It may not seem like a long time, but it works.
I was looking for this very thing to keep my kids reading this summer. They do AR at school and my son needs the extra practice. Obviously , it being summer, I'll set up an incentive program to get them interested.
But thanks so much for the link !!
In the school district that I live in AR points are for fun in elementary school but, when you get in middle school they are required for two grades and rewards. Why do they pay for a reading teacher? They do not have to prepare or even help them read because they can just get the scores to add to thier grade books. I'm not apposed to students using the computer to take tests but, there is no guidance involved. You either pass or you don't and you get two grades for it. What happened to reading for content, reading logs, grand conversation, story webs. If reading is such an issue why aren't more we actually working with the studnets!
AR MOM's Message: In the school district that I live in AR points are for fun in elementary school but, when you get in middle school they are required for two grades and rewards. Why do they pay for a reading teacher? They do not have to prepare or even help them read because they can just get the scores to add to thier grade books. I'm not apposed to students using the computer to take tests but, there is no guidance involved. You either pass or you don't and you get two grades for it. What happened to reading for content, reading logs, grand conversation, story webs. If reading is such an issue why aren't more we actually working with the studnets!
The program is making the studnets hate to READ!
AR is not a complete reading program. It ONLY tests independent reading, and nothing else. If the program is being used by reading teachers as the only reading instruction, then that isn't appropriate.
Using AR as a graded part of a reading program is completely appropriate. It is never to be used as the only reading program.
And, even with the AR program being used as independent reading, there is interaction with the students. Teachers work with students to meet goals, and they take daily "status of the class". The computer just keeps the records. The teacher still does the instruction.
AR doesn't make children hate to read. Improper implementation does.
I've taught reading for the past 4 years and think we've found an excellent way to continue AR use in our 6th grade reading program. After hearing horror stories from parents on the elementary level, I went to our media specialist and had them to contact elementary librarians to see how AR was used in the local schools (for our school receives students from the entire county).
After analysis and tweeking over the past 2 years, we now grade students on a 20 pt. scale for AR per grading period (20 or more pts=100; 19 pts=95; 18 pts=90; etc), recorded as a test grade, and do not limit what they can/can't check out. We have at least 5 reading class tests during the 9-week grading period, therfore AR performance will count no more than 10% of the total reading grade. The testing category for Reading classes counts 50% of the total grade at our school. So again, if AR performance is 1 of 5 tests, it will count no more than 10% of the total.
Okay, I know one might say, "no limitations on what they can check out?!" Well, let me clarify. Most Fridays are used for silent reading. During this time I mini-conference with each student about their AR progress, letting them know that I'm watching their independent reading like a hawk. If I see a red flag with a student's AR (not reading enough, failing tests, etc.), their are consequences --- "You're on p. 26 and you've had the book for a week...hmm, I need you on p. 97, the beginning of Ch 7, by next Friday" OR "You failed your last AR test on a novel that had a BL of 6.4; For now, let's not check out books at such a high level."
Because AR is understood and fully accepted by all 6th grade teachers, no matter the subject they teach, students can take AR tests and visit the library not only in reading class, but also in homeroom and basically any class once they have completed their classwork. In addition, because students have weekly folders to take home, I send an AR report that I created home to parents, letting them know how many points their child has earned for the grading period. This keeps parents involved and they serve as stakeholders in the AR process also.
FINALLY: AR makes up 10% or less of my reading class. We still read stories from our textbook, will read a novel as an entire class twice a year, require projects related to stories, etc. BOTTOM LINE: A balance has to be found and students must know that the teacher is looking at the their AR performance daily. RESULT: My 6th graders absolutely love reading!!! The 20 point goal is usually crushed by most students, but they still continue to set personal goals and read with a passion...in addition to mastering the reading class goals. We're nearing 10,000 points with an 84 average for the year with 210 6th graders (halfway point on Dec. 18). We have passed the reading portion of the CRCT, the state's standardized test, at a 99-100% for several years. By the way, the other reading teacher and the students have heard and will continue to hear about THAT 84 AR average as a grade. Looking for 85, 85, 85......Let's pull it up and continue excellence in READING!