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28 August 2014 @ 01:29 pm
So many things wrong, it's hard to know where to start  
I have seen stories like this one before: http://www.csmonitor.com/Books/2014/0508/What-are-kids-reading-Books-like-Hunger-Games-but-classics-too. They are based on data offered by Renaissance Learning each year. They are touted as an accurate portrayal of what kids are reading across the nation. In fact, the data show only what books kids forced to be in the Accelerated Reader program read (or at least what they take a test over). Let's try to break down some of these numbers, shall we?

9.8 million students in 31,000 schools: How many schools are there in total in the US? According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there were 98,817 public schools during the 2009-2010 school year. So, AR schools account for less than 1/3 of all schools. Keep that in mind as we move on to other number crunching activities.

According to the company, 9.8 million kids read a total of 318 million books for an average of about 35-36 books per reader. However, AR breaks it down further by grade levels, genders, page numbers and more. Here are their stats: "The number of books that students read peaks in second grade, at an average of 55. But the number of words students read in books peaks in sixth grade, when they average 16.2 books containing a total of 419,121 words. In 12th grade, students are averaging 5.2 books a year, containing 304,252 words. The gender gap in the average number of words students read peaks in eighth grade – with boys reading 340,515 words and girls reading 446,771."

If we take all of this on face value, we might be tempted to draw some rather shaky conclusions. Why is that? Well, let's see: telling me the number of words in a book is insufficient. What words, how many syllables, common or unusual? In conversation and dialogue or in exposition?

And there are other factors not touched upon here as well. How does work and outside responsibilities cut into reading time (perhaps high school kids need more time to do more reading?)? How do we determine a gender gap? Is it simply because girls read more words? Might some other information be required here?

And then there is this observation: "The report shows slight gains since 2010 in the percentages of students reading books mentioned on the “exemplar lists” – the Common Core’s examples showing the increasing level of complexity to which students should be exposed in their reading."

The final note that A CHILD CALLED IT tops the charts (their word not mine) from grades 6-12 is certainly telling as well. What does it tell us? The article does not say. But I bet there are plenty of educators out there who CAN tell.

Publishing a company's annual report as if it were news is disheartening. Not examining the report or analyzing the results is just poor journalism.
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