Ok so it is the second day in to 2018 and I had this whole big mindset of positivity going into this year. I was working on my book idea yesterday I had amazing chats on twitter with inspiring educators and things were looking great. Then I fell down the Rabbit hole that is the “AR is good vs AR is not” conversation.
I have had this idea for a Masters research topic on poverty and literacy as there is a rather high poverty level in my area in some communities with a rather high income area in other parts, so imagine my delight when I saw a post on facebook of someone doing the same type of work. Then imagine my reaction to reading this point they found regarding Accelerated Reader “An independent reading program resulting in school success, higher attendance, fewer discipline issues and better attitudes” We are going to be breaking this statement down in a minute. But first I must explain to those who are not teachers enrolled in the fight against AR and other programs that this is a rather contentious topic. There are some that would believe the above AR statement, that continue to defend it as good for some, a program that builds readers, that helps create a literacy community and that kids love the rewards. Then there are those who just want to help their students become life long readers. These two positions are exclusive. You can’t take the position that AR is great and at the same time push for life long readers as your goal. I do not care that some kids love the pizza party their points earn them or the donut they get at the end of reaching their points goal. I care about the kids that never realize that goal, I care about the idea that is developed by young readers that not getting those points means you are not a good reader, not smart enough, not worthy of a freaking donut…Deep breath…
Myth 1-AR is an independent reading program that results in school success. First lets just go ahead and say it, if AR is your reason for school success and not your teachers, students, parents and community then you have way bigger problems. If your measure for school success is kids being able to click the right letter on a knowledge based MC reading quiz than sure AR is going to help build that “success”.
Fact 1- Free Choice reading with a book and a variety of ways to share that book with your reading community results in success. Success that all students have an equal chance to participate and grow, success in that they find new books based on recommendation and the enthusiasm of their peers and teachers, success in creating kids who read to escape into a book and not to reach a point total at the end of the week.
Myth 2: AR leads to higher attendance. Are you freaking kidding me? Kids are not improving their attendance for an AR test, they might be more motivated by the idea of earning a prize but that could come from anywhere.
Fact 2: Students motivated to be at school will be at school. Our job as teachers is to teach kids but also to create an environment they look forward to being in. If you need an incentive program to get kids excited fine but for the love of learning please do not attribute AR as your students sole motivating purpose because SERIOUSLY…I can’t even.
Myth 3: AR contributes to fewer discipline issues. I have nothing to say here because this is the craziest claim I have ever seen.
Fact 3: I have never in my life seen a study that a computer program that measures (I use that term as loosely as I possibly can) comprehension resulted in fewer discipline problems…is the idea that they are so quietly clicking away their answers that they have no time to be off task? Can we just take a minute to picture that a room full of kids quietly clicking the answers to their reading quizzes, that nice blue glow of the screen illuminating their faces. Yup sounds like a great reading environment to me.
Myth 4: AR results in better attitudes. This is the moment above all the rest that I had to tag out.
Fact 4: I have asked every class I have taught how they felt about AR and the majority hated it within a few years of starting the program. As the reading levels begin to differ students learn they are a colour dot or a letter or a number not a person. They learn that some books are not for them even though they look the most appealing. They learn their friends get to attend a party because they read the most books and earned the most points. They learn that reading is not about enjoying a book but about the prize at the end. They learn that they can throw the tests and lose the points to keep reading the books they love. Can we just take a minute…Kids learn to lie to read the books they love. This is insanity that continues to be defended.
It is 2018 and we are 2 days in and I have already ranted on the blog. Oh well it was worth it.
I started reading the very enjoyable Wishtree by Katherine Applegate last night. This morning while I cooked my breakfast I sat reading, with my journal, writing down different lines and when I finish this blog I am going to pick it up again and keep reading, maybe even finish it today. Share it on the blog, talk to my friends, flipgrid a book commercial and share the joy of this book because it is full of wisdom.
Or I could just reward myself with a donut.
How ridiculous does that sound?