professornana (professornana) wrote,

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So yesterday, I posted a link to this blog post on Facebook: I agreed with Sarah Darer Littman's take on this insidious program called Accelerated Reader. As Helen Frost noted recently in a separate discussion, why do we need to accelerate? What is wrong with just progressing or even standing still from time to time? I loved the closing paragraph of this blog post: "We don't need Accelerated Reader. We should be spending the money we're spending on AR on certified school librarians. Decades of research show they make a difference. " And we DO have that research.

After I posted the link, a curious thing happened. Some folks posted that if AR were properly implemented. Here is one of the comments posted: "Librarians who use AR need to start fighting for correct use of AR so people will stop hating it over its wide misuse. Reading level is an average - not a "you can only read these books only" limitation. When AR is used well it can motivate kids to read who don't and even get kids who do to push themselves a little more. AR has given me the opportunity to help kids explore genres and read titles they wouldn't have tried in the past." Some echoed support for this position. Others disagreed. But these die hard AR fans kept coming back. I let the "discussion" range. But I will not let these kind of statements go unanswered.

I suspect the person who endorses AR is not a frequent reader of my blog, but I am posting some thoughts here so that I might have the final word: my blog, my opinion. You can hijack my Facebook post, but I will put my response here for all to see. Some, here are some points to consider:

1. AR is a program. I do not care one whit if there are people not faithfully implementing it (sounds sort of scary actually to think there is ONE RIGHT WAY, but that is the nature of a program, right?), it is a one-size-fits-all program with dubious research and exaggerated claims. Most of the defending posts included the usual anecdotal evidence. I need controlled scientific and replicable experimental design, folks. Those studies have concluded that AR is no more effective sand that it actually results in lower or worse attitudes toward reading.
2. If AR works as claimed, why are there still declining test scores?
3. If AR does work, why do most adults in the US read so few books? Fully one-third report reading 0-2 books in the past year. Another fifth have read 3-5 books. It seems to me, then, that after the points and the prizes are eliminated, there are fewer readers. And that is the crux, EXTRINSIC motivation does not become INTRINSIC motivation.
4. If AR does work, then prove it is the quiz/point element that works. The rest of what AR claims: time to read, choice in reading material, culture of reading at the school, educators who read aloud, etc.--that is not unique to AR. Instead, these are practices (not programs) that have been demonstrated to have positive influence on test scores and on attitudes. Sadly, there is not a shred of evidence that proves taking a test over minutiae increases scores or attitudes.
5. Finally, a certified educator (teacher, librarian, administrator) can (and many do) help kids find books, talk to kids about their reading, refuse to boil reading down to 10 multiple-guess questions with correct answers. So spend the $$$, the considerable $$$ that might go to buy tests to buying BOOKS. That is a much better investment.

No program knows students as well as a caring and concerned and WELL-READ educator does. No program. NONE.
Tags: canned programs, idiocy, selling out
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