Attempting to Dodge AR

I love my job.  My last elementary school had about 1400 students, was about a half hour drive and had an inconsistent but persistent use of a program you’ve probably heard of called Accelerated Reader or “AR” for short put out by the people at Renaissance Learning.

My new school has about 500 students, is about 15 minutes away, and doesn’t have AR.  Nice.

But this post-holiday, pre-testing season always leads to panicky adoption of all kinds of “magic bullet” things which have of course led to questions of us signing up for the AR bandwagon.

I know, I know, your school has AR and the implementation has been flawless and it has led to near-miraculous amounts of reading and over-the-top test scores and things couldn’t be better.

Yet this is us.  I will of course go by whatever the stakeholders at my school and my Media Committee decide on.  But in the interest of fairness, however, I think it’s important I educate them on what many see as at best a waste of money and at worst detrimental to our desire to foster lifelong readers and learners.

So I’m sharing some information around my school.  Including this article written by Dr. Stephen Krashen which the AASL found important enough to put on their site for all school librarians to be aware of.  I think one of the more compelling arguments against adoption (leaving alone the less-than-compelling evidence that the program even works) is the sheer expense of it at a poor little Title I school as can be found here at the What Works Clearinghouse.

I’d much rather be spending that money on getting more interesting books for the students to choose from.

I also plan on going over these 18 Reasons Not to Use AR put together by Reading Specialist Mark Pennington.

If I lose this battle and we end up adopting AR or some similar program I will read the recommendations carefully and make sure it is properly implemented of course.  For AR that would mean making sure, as Renaissance Learning suggests, that students are given at least an hour each day to read, that their scores are in no way tied to grades and that there are no prizes attached to the point levels.  Oh, and above all, that each student gets to decide if they want to participate.  You knew that was all part of it, right?

I’m thinking if the decision makers know that they will be spending more than a third of my book budget on something that is supposed to be completely voluntary and has sketchy research backing it up that they might agree with me that AR isn’t the way to go.

Jim Randolph
Partee Elementary
Snellville, GA


About Library_Jim

School librarian, dad, hubby, geek.

Posted on January 12, 2011, in Best practice, Reading, Research. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Hey Jim. I’d really like to see what you’ve read about Lexiles, if it’s possible to share. Thanks!

  2. Why AR at all? Why not Scholastic Reading Counts, which is a much superior product? It and Scholastic Reading Inventory integrate Lexile measurement into the Reading program, so it becomes a curriculum instrument instead of an incentive program. These programs have been an integral part of Reading instruction at my school for the past 10+ years. I can’t and won’t defend AR, but I’ll take on anyone who claims that the way we use SRC and SRI is invalid.

  3. many schools in the county have gotten rid of AR in the past few years – mainly for cost purposes, but also because – there is NO EVIDENCE that it increases test scores – ask around (if we EVER get back to school) and see what others have to say. Our school does not have it and I feel SOO strongly about it (against having it) that I would really fight to keep it that way if the powers that be pressed for it. Is your admin team pressing for it because other schools in your cluster have it?? Good luck!

    • Tommy, I’ve read some weak evidence for Lexiles in general, but I’ll definitely look at what Scholastic has to offer.


      There is no admin pressure yet and the principal is open-minded. I just want to make sure those who think it would be a good idea understand why I don’t before it ever gets that far.


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