Ms. Donnelly Reads

"A Reader Lives a Thousand Lives" George R.R. Martin

My district has used the Accelerated Reader program for as long as I’ve been there (18 years) and probably longer than that. It’s an easy, but ineffective, way to make sure kids are reading their library books.

The gist:

  • Accelerated Reader, or AR, is a computer program that monitors students’ independent reading that schools began using in 1986. Since then, the program has undergone name changes and program upgrades. The latest version is called Accelerated Reader 360™.
  • Each book, and there are over 180,000 in the catalog, is assigned a certain number of points based on the reading level. Since the learning is individualized, it’s thought that children will be more invested when they’re successful on the tests which will create a love of reading.

The nuts and bolts:

  • Students take the STAR Reading test, also owned by Renaissance Learning, to determine students’ reading scores and their AR goal is set from those scores
  • Once students know they scores, they can choose their own books based on interest and/or reading level
  • After they read the book, they take an online test with 5, 10, or 20 questions depending on the length and content of the book
  • If a student scores 60% or below, they do not receive any points for that book. Scores of 70%-95% are awarded a percentage of the total points. Only a score of 100% will earn a student full points for the book

“A parent’s guide to Renaissance Accelerated Reader 360.” Renaissance. Accessed 29 January 2019.

The cost in both time and dollars:

  • The program’s developer recommends using Accelerated Reader™ during in-class time dedicated to reading practice for at least 35 minutes
  • Teachers can use points to set goals for the quantity and quality of reading practice for each student. Point accumulation, as well as other optional teacher-provided rewards, are intended to motivate student learning (though the program does not explicitly suggest giving external rewards)
  • Accelerated Reader™ and Accelerated Reader 360™ are sold on an annual, per-student subscription. Additional cost information is available from the distributor (I’ve seen the numbers vary from a one-time $1,500 fee and $4/student to the cost being flexible depending on the district’s contract

U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, What Works Clearinghouse. (2016, June). Beginning Reading intervention report: Accelerated Reader™. Retrieved from


None of these numbers surprise me, because they all validate my argument against AR in the schools. All too often, a district gets stuck in a rut and stays there simply because it’s easier than finding something that truly fits in with the makeup of their students.

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