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Richard Davidian Dr. Jan Rieman English 1103 November 10, 2010 At the beginning of this assignment, I was in a slight panic. I know my researching prowess, or lack thereof, and I was apprehensive about what information to get from where. After baby steps, then normal steps, I began to acquire a “flow” to what I was writing. My inquiry question was being answered as best as it could be, and my research was valid and noteworthy. Putting together all of the pieces of the essay was moderately difficult. It became easier eventually as I felt more confident in how I was answering my question. My favorite part about this assignment is how I could put myself and my own experience into a formal paper. All Books, All Quizzes; All Worth It? Any person who has ever relocated where they live probably knows that moving from school to school can be a trying experience. Changes like that often lead to new standards and procedures, regarding the way a school approaches teaching the students. When I started to attend a different school system in North Carolina, I was introduced to the Accelerated Reader program. The Accelerated Reader program, used in grades Kindergarten through twelve, is a supplementary reading program in which students select a book to read and then take a computerized quiz on the book. The purpose is to monitor how well students are advancing in their reading skills (What Works Clearinghouse 1). I vividly remember feeling accomplished

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after completing a book and passing its corresponding quiz. I’m sure that I would lack some reading skills that I have today had I not taken part in the program. At least I think I am sure. Looking back at all of the books, quizzes, and time put into meet requirements of the program, I began to question its effectiveness. Is implementing the Accelerated Reader program a wise course of action for schools to take? This can be deduced by taking a look at the pros and cons of the structured literary curriculum. Hopefully my findings in this paper will make the essay appeal to fellow students as it has to me, not to mention teachers who want feedback on the program. There are many valuable aspects of using Accelerated Reader. The whole program itself costs anywhere between $2,000 to $10,000 for a whole school, depending on school size and implemented components (What Works 3). It is safe to conclude that for a moderately populated school with an average amount of included program features, the AR program would not be so expensive as a whole. Roger Johnson, a distinguished author who holds a Ph.D in psychology, wrote that approximately one out of every three schools in the United States has adopted the program (88). Considering that statistic, it is hard to ignore the distinct possibility of the program as hugely beneficial. In fact, based on a study of students in an urban, inner-city setting, students had gains in reading skill from .73 to 2.24 years on the Gates-MacGinitie Reading Test (91). Gail Thompson and a team of professors who teach at a California university, also convey tales of success. Their observation is as follows. “In a study at a private K-8 Catholic school in Brooklyn, the librarian noticed increased library circulation when the school began using AR” (551). Tenth-grade students in Florida were also documented to have positive results from Accelerated Reader. Their grades on reading portions of standardized tests increased by 4% to 7% (552).

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With clear evidence of participants in the program gaining skills in reading, a crucially positive aspect of the program is clear; it can work. It can do what it is designed to do, which is to track and improve the reading levels of students, and in some cases motivate students to read more recreationally. However, there are other cases. According to the logic I have developed in my eighteen years of worldly experience, having success in ‘some cases’ is not adequate. That is why this section of negative outcomes of the Accelerated Reader program may have a little more gravity. Not all studies have shown that the Accelerated Reader program really works. According to the What Works Clearinghouse, a trusted source of scientific evidence for what works in education, there were two eligible studies that met evidential standards; “based on the two studies, the WWC found no discernible effects in reading fluency and comprehension for adolescent learners” (5). One may think that just a couple of unsatisfactory cases which yield sub-par results cannot prove anything against the bulletproof outcomes of the Accelerated Reader program. After digging a little deeper, I found that there are many less-than-satisfactory features on the program. Participants in organized focus groups had four major complaints. An issue that arises from students already having too much work inside and outside of school is that the amount of reading required is unrealistic. Not all books can truly appeal to anyone, and many students do not like being forced to read. The availability of books on the Accelerated Reader list dependent on whether or not a quiz exists to complement it, causing the book selections to be limited and displeasing. Some students do not possess certain reading comprehension skills, and since course grades are reflective of the performance on Accelerated Reader quizzes, the overall grade in a class can fall (Thompson 554).

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Being a student who was forced to take part in the Accelerated Reader program, I can agree. Reading to meet a deadline can be unnerving, especially when students have other academic and extracurricular activities. My readings were limited; I distinctly remember numerous times when the librarian in middle school would not allow me to check out a certain book because its reading level was not in my “reading zone.” My class grades were sometimes diminished by poor performance on reading quizzes because I sometimes performed horribly on book quizzes. This forced literary supplement discouraged me from doing outside reading. Sara Luck, an elementary school teacher, evaluated ten different studies of middle schools across three districts regarding the AR program. The studies assessed the effect that Accelerated Reader has on the amount of recreational reading that students do. It was observed that the program did not hold any positive effects on motivation to read, and in two districts, the effects were actually negative (6). That’s right, some students had much less willingness to read recreationally as they were using the Accelerated Reader program. From experience, I can vouch for this lackadaisical result. After all of the readings that were required to be completed in school, I had little motivation left to read books on my own. I was under the impression that my work had already been cut out for me. I will bring into focus one example from my personal life. Throughout the time when I was a part of the Accelerated Reader program, I was friends with a boy named Nicholas Salvador. Although he spoke it fluently, English was his second language. Nicholas always accumulated a massive amount of Accelerated Reader points from completing numerous book quizzes. In addition, he read a plethora of books unrelated to the program. His love for reading showed the most positive effect of the Accelerated Reader program. He met the required goals, and went beyond. He acquired reading skills far beyond any other students. So how was he so

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positively impacted by Accelerated Reader? I believe that the answer is that he simply found a love for reading, beyond that which was embedded in him by the school. Does the Accelerated Reader program have a constructive effect on students? I personally do not support the use of it based on my own experiences and the negative sides that come along with it, but that is all biased on my negligent teenaged personality. I conclude that the success of the program all depends on the students’ attitudes. Those who disagree with the requirements of the program and those who severely lack motivation to read will have no beneficial outcomes of participating in the program. Students who read joyfully and are enthusiastic about the program will likely have flourishing reading skills. Some kids who only run as far as the finish line, such as myself, have few positive outcomes form the program. The Accelerated Reader program works much like a garden; if more seeds are planted, then more crops will grow. If more effort is made to participate in the program, then more literary prowess will be acquired. Perhaps what students need in a materialistic world is a more tangible reward than just a grade on a computer screen. A free book, maybe.

Works Cited

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Johnson, Roger A. "The Effects of the Accelerated Reader Program on the Reading Comprehension of Pupils in Grades Three, Four, and Five." Reading Matrix 3.3 (2003): 87-96. www.readingmatrix.com. Web. 4 Nov. 2010. Luck, Sara A. "Accelerated Reader: The Controversy Continues--A Literature Review of the Effectiveness of Accelerated Reader in Increasing Reading Achievement and Student Motivation." Illinois Reading Council Journal 38.2 (2010): 3-9. Web. 5 Oct. 2010. Thompson, Gail, Marga Madhuri, and Deborah Taylor. “How the Accelerated Read Program Can Become Counterproductive for High School Students.” Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 51.7 (2008): 550-560. Web. 6 Oct. 2010 What Works Clearinghouse, (ED). "Accelerated Reader[TM]. What Works Clearinghouse Intervention Report." What Works Clearinghouse (2010): Web. 4 Nov. 2010.