AR Goals

December 18, 2011

Why do students at LMS have Accelerated Reader reading goals? Why is it important that they achieve their goals?  by Julie Straka

Reading is a skill and, as with every skill, it requires not just instruction but practice. A sports team that rarely practices is not going to improve and will not be successful in competition. If you want to be a better golfer you will have to actually get out there and swing a golf club. It is the same with reading! That is where Accelerated Reader (AR) fits in at LMS-it provides the structure and accountability for reading practice.  Reading practice serves a number of purposes; it enables students to apply the skills and strategies that they are taught in class, and it draws them into the world of "real" reading-a world in which people learn from and enjoy books.

Practice does not automatically lead to growth, however. To be effective, practice must have certain attributes. It must be at the right level of difficulty, cover a sufficient amount of time, be guided by the instructor, and be enjoyable to sustain. 

In order to make sure our practice at LMS is effective, students are given an AR goal each quarter. The most important part of the goal is the comprehension goal; students are to maintain an average of 85 percent or above on the AR tests they take upon completion of each book they read. Research tells us that high scores on AR quizzes are associated with large gains in reading achievement. Students also have a point goal; this part of the goal is to ensure that students will have adequate "practice time" each day to develop and improve their reading skills. (Would a basketball team that only practiced for only ten minutes a day show improvement?) Additionally, students have a book level goal; the purpose of the book level goal is to make sure that the practice is at the right level of difficulty for the student. Students have a minimum book level goal to maintain while reading throughout their zone of proximal development (ZPD). The ZPD is based on the results of the STAR assessment. It is important, too, that students are reading books in their interest level that are appropriate for their maturity level and interesting to them as a reader.

The AR test provides a means to monitor student progress and lets teachers know if a reader is struggling so that they may intervene. You can help at home by encouraging your student to read, providing a quiet time and place to read, and asking how they are coming on reaching their AR goal. You can also check your child's progress by going to the Home Connect website, https://hosted84.renlearn.com/205663/HomeConnect/, and log in using your child's AR username and password. You will be able to view their progress and look at their bookshelf (the bookshelf displays all of the books that they have read and taken AR tests on throughout their school years in Lexington Public Schools). Home Connect provides you with an opportunity to take an active role in monitoring and helping your child reach his or her AR goals. You may also become more aware of the books your child is reading and have some conversations about the types of books your child likes to read.

In summary, the purpose of Accelerated Reader is to enable powerful practice. A student's ZPD represents the level of difficulty that is neither too hard nor too easy. Book level indicates the difficulty of text, not the maturity of content. Interest level tells you for which grade levels a book's themes and ideas are appropriate. Points are assigned to a book based primarily on its length. The number of points a student earns tells you how much reading a student has done. And finally, the most important factor in accelerated reading growth is good comprehension. As they say, "Practice makes perfect" but ONLY if your "practice is perfect"!

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