The school initially trialled Accelerated Reader (AR) and Star Reading (SR) before I joined. Once I joined Cranleigh as the Prep School Librarian, the school was keen to properly roll out both programmes because I had previous experience. I was used to working with AR and Star Reading in a previous school, but I was a fan of them even more so. Cranleigh were happy to roll it out to all Key-Stage 3. The English department was pleased to be involved with the rollout because they were intrigued to see AR and SR in practice and curious to see the data. After the initial rollout, everyone was delighted with both programmes. And more importantly, once students got their heads around it, they thought it was great.
The main impact that Star Reading has had on the school has been providing staff with Tangible data. We conduct our first Star Reading assessment within the first couple of weeks of a new term. The great thing about Star Reading is that if we have a new student with no previous data, we can test everyone at the beginning of the year. Once the initial assessment has been completed, Star Reading provides a benchmark on each student, which is incredibly useful. For myself and other English staff, knowing where each student sits in the spectrum of ability compared to their peers internally and externally is invaluable. As an international school, we don’t always have English-first-language students. Therefore it is instrumental in seeing how English-additional-language students comprehend English. We’ve just carried out our second round of testing. The data and reports we’re able to export from this second round of results is incredibly beneficial to share with the English department and the senior leadership team. The results show that when these students put effort in and use AR properly and want to read for pleasure, their levels are increasing, and their ZPD and scaled scores are going up.
The great thing about both AR and SR is showing the data to people asking for it and saying, ‘Look, it works, our students are getting better’. That’s why it’s advantageous to have something tangible. It’s all well and good saying to a student ‘read me this paragraph’ without actually knowing their reading level. Now we have the data to say whether students can access a specific part of the curriculum. But now, we can structure their own individual learning. In a parents evening for students in year 3 and 4, parents ask, “where can we support our child”. Thanks to Star Reading reports, we can provide those areas for improvement to parents using learning progressions. Learning progressions offer focus and suggested skills that pupils must master to see growth. Areas of mastery include comprehension, vocabulary acquisition, word recognition etc. That’s why Star Reading is just brilliant because of the amount of data it gives us. The special educational needs department find the learning progressions really useful with one-to-one time with students. The reports from Star Reading highlight the focus skills that each student must still master. This allows the teacher to offer appropriate intervention, which is so beneficial for maintaining development.
After we carry out a Star Reading assessment at the beginning of every term, each class has a Google Drive folder. This is where we hold their respective Diagnostic Reports. Staff can access this report at any time, and they refer to it after finishing their Star Reading assessment. Students can then use this report to assess their progress and development. I also find the Growth Report useful throughout the middle and the end of the academic year, especially when the senior leadership team requests evidence of students’ progress. The Growth Report provides a concise summary of the year group, highlighting students by those working at or above benchmark and those in need of intervention.
Our school has always had a healthy reading culture. I used to have a rolling tally of how many words each cohort had read. We had another chart showing overall points each class had achieved from AR quizzes. I would update these charts daily, and students would run into the library in the morning to find out where they were on the charts. It added a sense of competition that worked well for their development. Students could see that the effort they were putting in was paying off. I know that individual teachers within classes could also see their students’ reading development was paying off. There was always a risk that some students would race through a book quiz and only get 4/10. But you could quickly identify the students who were really reading the book and getting 8 or 9/10. I had a comment from one student last year who said she really didn’t enjoy reading. Still, once she got into the AR programme and found books suited for her reading-level, she could see her ZPD-range going up really quickly. Eventually, she started to love reading. She said, “it’s because of AR that I love reading”.
Since the part-closure of schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic from March 2020, students have been encouraged to quiz from home. However, nothing beats the routine of students running into the library, grabbing an iPad and carrying out an AR test after they’ve finished their book. Hopefully, when back in school and back in routine, that usage will go back up. We switched to one-to-one devices this year. Every student that use AR now have their own device. This means every student has access to AR quizzing and digital books within myON in front of them. They can now read a digital book on myON, wherever they are, and with a click of a button, they can go straight through to AR quizzing.
It works with all of our students. It works with the SEN department because they can pinpoint specific skills to work on. It also gives EAL students confidence because they can then find books at their level that they can comfortably read. AR promotes books at the right level to help students not feel embarrassed reading different books from their English-speaking peers. With AR, they can look at the level they’re at and the progress they are making. When you introduce an air of competition with reluctant readers, it keeps motivation levels high. Like when students can see their sunflower grow, the more they read and quiz and achieve their target points. This motivation increases reading engagement, and it works for so many different students in our school.
I would definitely recommend Accelerated Reader and Star Reading as a way of tracking students’ progression. Students don’t realise how much AR and SR is helping them improve. They don’t realise how much it’s helping their understanding and comprehension. They read a book and quiz on it and see they did well and understand that now they can read more challenging books. It’s great to watch them get into that love of reading. But we can also pinpoint those students who need the most help. It’s got everything we need in the English department to support the wider community as best we want. When used correctly, both Accelerated Reader and Star Reading are excellent tools. The results I have seen from them show that it works.
Recently, we have introduced myON, the digital library by Renaissance. We invested in myON just for the sheer volume of books myON has and the convenience of having books on every student’s device. Books can be expensive to buy and take a long time to arrive at school, so giving immediate access to digital books for every student is invaluable. We looked at other programmes. Some e-book platforms required us to pay for one licence per student or per book. With myON, we just have to renew our yearly subscription, after that student has instant and continued access to thousands of digital books.
The numbers don’t lie!
- 11,235 Accelerated Reader quizzes carried out over the last twelve months – an increase of 16.52%
- 2,780 Star Reading assessments carried out over the last twelve months – an increase of 124.01%
- Average ZPD level over the last twelve months – an average increase of 11.73%
- Average Accelerated Reader Quiz Percentage Correct of 81% over the last twelve months.
- Average Accelerated Reader Reading Level over the last twelve months – an average of 4.58
- Average Star Reading Scaled Score over the last twelve months – an average of 14.71%
- Average time per Star Reading test over the last twelve months is 19 Minutes 07 Seconds
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