Monday, December 26, 2011

1st Annual Readamatic Pacer Award

My board certification in pediatrics expires in a few days--I renewed it less than a year before I started my student teaching, and haven't looked back (much). Still, I spent most of my adult life assessing child development, and I know a little bit about learning.

I do not pretend to know a lot about anything, especially matters of the mind, but education glamorizes snake oil salesmen. I spent part of today looking through the research on Accelerated Reader, and hereby awards its promotion department with my 1st Annual Readamatic Pacer  Award.

The "research" pushed by the company demonstrating the value of the AR program fails to tease out the effects of implementing sustained reading practice in a classroom (already known to increase reading) from the high tech monitoring that comes with the program.

It gets worse--there is no consistent evidence  that the monitoring and reward part of Accelerated Reader add any benefit beyond that gained through the sustained reading.

Here's some evidence-based reasoning for you--if you spend less money on nonsense, you have more money available to buy books the kids might want to read. Here's another: the less time spent "monitoring" a child's progress (done via multiple computerized assessments), the more time a child has to get back to Charlotte's Web.

Don't even get me started on Marzano's research....

Image by via Retro Thing--well worth a visit!


Jenny said...

When I began as a fourth grade teacher my school had AR. I gave my kids access to it but really did little else with it. My third year teaching I had a really amazing group of kids including two boys who were best friends but highly competitive. Two of them figured out how to log on as the other and screw up his AR scores. I knew then that I was done with that program. Fortunately our new librarian dumped it and I didn't have to think about it.

I question any prepackaged program. But AR seems especially ridiculous.

Doug Noon said...

Last year, in a workplace email discussion about how we might spend some grant money, I referenced Krashen's research, questioning the wisdom of throwing good money at AR. A few people thanked me, and a couple of primary teachers were unhappy with me for "berating" one of their sacred cows.

Last week we were informed that soon our school would be fully supplied with all the AR tests and materials. Oh boy!

I am beyond hoping anymore. I sent my last certificate renewal application off to the DOE two weeks ago. How do I know it's my last? I have lost my appetite for nonsense.

Mary Ann Reilly said...

AR is just a terrible practice and unfortunately used in schools with the belief that it promotes reading. I wish teachers would stop using AR is undermines the very reasons people read (not to earn points or get some prize).

John T. Spencer said...

Last year, I fought a tiny battle to allow my students forty-five minutes of sustained silent reading based upon their own choice. Sometimes I asked them to focus on a skill (make inferences, visualize, etc.) but mostly it was simply reading more. My goal was to retain the love of reading. I wanted to see kids find a genre that they liked. I wanted them to realize that reading was inherently rewarding and that they didn't need a sticker or a high five or a system of points for every page they read.

The results? Their fluency skyrocketed. But so did their critical thinking, comprehension and other skills that aren't traditionally associated with silent reading.

They became literate. Or rather, they had a chance to practice being literate. They became comfortable with silence. They read with autonomy. They read challenging works, knowing that they wouldn't be punished as a result.

I didn't need AR to do any of it. It cost me next to nothing. I had a bookshelf full of books I thought they might like (from the VNSA booksale, where used books are 25 cents a piece) and we spent twenty minutes a week in the library.

It wasn't rocket science.

doyle said...

Dear Jenny,

I suspect that a few folks might argue that learning how to game the system is a wonderful way to prepare our li'l ones for the highly competitive global economy that Arne keeps waving in our faces.

AR makes a few people a lot of money. Sad that money trumps research (or sense).

Dear Doug,

I just read you're getting the Ruby Payne treatment as well--maybe when the sunlight returns, sanity will, too.

We need people like you in the trenches with us--we cannot let the grinning faces of well-paid misguided consultants feeding off the trough knock us out of the last place children have any chance of learning about the American experiment.

Dear Mary Ann,

Amen. Now if you could just put those thoughts together in a slick pamphlet with a snazzy multimedia show given by a suit, you, too, can be rich!

Dear John,

It's not rocket science, and the science that is out there supports your method. Why can't school boards see this? What is feeding the madness?

We're spending several hundred thousand dollars on this in our district alone. That buys a lot of books!