"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The case against accelerated reader

Sent to the Star-Telegram, Fort Worth, November 14

The case against accelerated reader (AR) is even stronger than the Jan Lacina’s article states (“Accelerated Reader: Teaching kids the 'game' of school testing, Nov. 13).

There is no clear evidence that AR works, even in the short term. AR has four components: It provides access to books, provides time to read, quizzes children on what they read, and awards prizes for performance on the quizzes. As Dean Lacina notes, it is well-established that providing books and time to read are effective, but AR research does not show that the quizzes and prizes add anything. Studies claiming AR is effective compare AR to doing nothing; gains were probably due to the reading, not the tests and prizes.

Also, AR could also have the effect of discouraging reading in the long run: Reading is intrinsically pleasant. Substantial research shows that rewarding an intrinsically pleasant activity sends the message that the activity is not pleasant, and that nobody would do it without a bribe. AR might be convincing children that reading is not pleasant. No studies have been done on the long-term effect of AR.

Stephen Krashen

Kohn, A. 1999. Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise, and Other Bribes. Boston: Houghton Mifflin (second edition)
Krashen, S. 2003. The (lack of) experimental evidence supporting the use of accelerated reader. Journal of Children’s Literature 29 (2): 9, 16-30. (Available at www.sdkrashen.com)
Krashen, S. 2004. A comment on Accelerated Reader: The pot calls the kettle black. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy 47(6): 444-445.
Krashen, S. 2005. Accelerated reader: Evidence still lacking. Knowledge Quest 33(3): 48-49.

Original article:


  1. It seems further true that the case is being made, though it may not be acknowledged, comment by comment and post by post, for the radical erasure of much that is conceived of as the "praxis" of the current institution of the primary and secondary school in the US.

    What serves to replace it?

    I don't think it can be achieved (vile word) without a very clear agreement within the culture that humans ought not to be "evaluated" and/or "graded."

    Of course, how will labor be molded appropriately? How do we apply "QC" to mimic our "ISO" standards?

    Did we try that at some point in the past?

  2. Anonymous7:36 PM

    This program is completely ridiculous and harmful to all children. It has made an immense number of students lose their love of reading by forcing them to read about certain topics to pass classes. It is destroying the creativity of youth.

    As an 8th grader, I'm caught in the middle of this. I started a Facebook group named "Keep Accelerated Reader Out of Schools" and have posted some information about this inflammatory program on the page. I hope you visit it and I apologize if this advertisement bugs you.

    1. Anonymous4:49 PM

      As an educator in FWISD who has long despised Accelerated Reader for many reasons, but mostly because there have been NO long-term studies of its effectiveness in the district. The program has been used almost 20 years and I see no improvement in Secondary students reading scores. I am interested in how many students do not like the program and/or feel it has lessened their enjoyment of reading.

  3. As an AR teacher, I disagree with your opinions. This tool used to entice kids to read is the only reading that some students will engage. Despite the research, many students see the incentives as a plus. I say whatever means are necessary to get students to read, is a good thing, especially if there is no support at home.

    1. Anonymous3:07 PM

      Then that is our job as educators to learn other ways of encouraging reading and helping kids learn to love books! The research is clear. Students do not like it and they are not learning the joys of reading books. Instead their focus is on the score, their peer's score, added stress and anxiety.

  4. Anonymous8:38 PM

    I am an English teacher of many years' experience; the department I work in is trialling AR currently and, indeed, it is a time-wasting, reductive, soul-destroying activity, which seems to me to take away valuable teaching and learning time. Moreover, the test scores and 'diagnosed' reading ages are, frankly, laughable!!! I hope the school wakes up to the plethora of problems assiciated with AR pronto.

  5. Anonymous12:10 PM

    My son's teacher uses AR test results in grading their book reports. If they read the book, test in AR, and fail, no matter how well they do on their book report, (even if the earn an 'A') they are given a D on their book report. My son, not only despises AR, but now hates doing book reports. So counter productive. He used to love reading. I had to tell him to put his book away at night and go to sleep because he loved to read. Not any more. So, so sad.

  6. Anonymous10:41 PM

    We recently moved and my daughters are now in a school with AR reading. My oldest daughter went from a straight A student in a pre-ivy league school that absolutely LOVED reading to completely refusing to read!! In my opinion AR reading has done irreparable damage to my daughter's sense of wonder and excitement over reading! In fact, I would absolutely avoid a school that uses the AR reading system! My daughter tests grades above where the AR reading scores put her. The entire system is very counter productive!!!