About the Program
St. Francis currently uses the Accelerated Reader (AR) program in First through Fifth grades. AR is a reading practice program hosted by Renaissance Learning that is intended to individualize and focus reading practice and improve reading comprehension. Contrary to its name, it does not push students to move faster in their reading. Its purpose is instead to augment the regular reading curriculum and make reading practice more effective. It has been in existence for over 20 years and has an excellent and well-tested track record. Therefore, it is equally effective for students who are struggling with their reading and those who are advanced.
How the Program Works
In the AR program, teachers determine an individual goal range (called the ZPD, or Zone of Proximal Development) for each student that extends from slightly below to slightly above his/her DRA reading level. Studies have shown that students make the greatest amount of progress in reading skills when substantial time is spent practicing reading within this range. Students choose books within their individual goal ranges, read them, and then take computer-based quizzes on them. Students receive instant feedback, and teachers are able to track their progress in reading comprehension, vocabulary development, and other reading skills. Teachers are looking at how a student does over a period of time rather than on any particular individual quiz. Students accumulate points for each quiz and work toward goals set by their teachers.
Each teacher is able to adjust the program both to his/her individual students and to the overall needs of the class. So, some classes take their quizzes one or two students at a time in the classroom, and other classes take their quizzes as a full class in the computer lab. Students are able choose books from the library on a wide array of topics, including both fiction and nonfiction books. For the upper grades, with teacher approval, students can also bring in books from home, as long as they are part of the AR program. The program contains several hundred thousand books. Most books published within the past 20 years are part of the program, and new books are added every day. The program and the reading textbook are aligned as well, so some classes occasionally will work on a story as a whole class and all take a quiz together on that story.
Because this program focuses mainly on reading comprehension, the goal is not for the students to be reading the most challenging books they can wade through. Instead, the goal is for them to focus on getting the most possible out of what they are reading within their individual ZPD. Students are still encouraged to read for pleasure or information as well, and they may check out both AR books and regular library books simultaneously.
The AR program contains a Home Connect portion. After the students have completed several quizzes, teachers will send home a letter containing the information to log into this portion of the program. Through this, parents will be able to access information on their children’s goals and progress on quizzes.