Accelerated Reader (AR) is a digital whole-class reading management and monitoring programme that aims to foster independent reading among primary and secondary pupils. The internet-based software initially screens pupils according to their reading levels using Star Reading Assessment and suggests books that match their reading age and reading interest. Pupils take computerised quizzes on the books they have read, and quiz performance allows teachers to monitor pupils progress in reading.
Schools receive three one-hour remote training sessions and six hours of whole school training. Training sessions help schools ensure that their libraries are prepared for the intervention, show teachers how to use quizzes and analyse the data that they generate.
The EEF’s Teaching and Learning Toolkit highlights that approaches supporting reading comprehension can, on average, deliver an additional 6 months progress. The first EEF-funded efficacy trial of AR found pupils who received the programme made three months of additional progress in reading comprehension. The study was conducted in 4 secondary schools with 349 Year 7 pupils who had achieved below age-expected levels in reading at the end of Key Stage 2.
This trial of AR assessed the impact of the programme on year 5 (6,116 pupils) and year 4 pupils (6,311) in 181 primary schools. The project initially aimed to assess the impact of one year of AR on Year 4 children’s reading comprehension (8−9 years) and also look at the longer-term impact of the programme on Year 5 children’s (9−10 years) Key Stage 2 SATs reading scores. Due to problems with the reading comprehension measure delivered to pupils at the end of Year 4 the length of the trial was extended, and the evaluation tested the longer-term impact of AR on both cohorts’ Key Stage 2 reading scores. The independent evaluation found children who started AR in Year 5, on average, made no additional progress in reading compared to children in the comparison schools. Similarly, children who started AR in Year 4, on average, made no additional progress in reading compared to children in comparison schools. These results have a very high security rating: 5 out of 5 on the EEF padlock scale. Children eligible for FSM who started Accelerated Reader in Year 5, on average, made no additional progress in reading compared to children who were eligible for FSM in the comparison schools. However, children eligible for FSM who started Accelerated Reader in Year 4, on average, made one month additional progress in reading compared to children eligible for FSM in comparison schools – but the statistical uncertainty around this result mean it is consistent with larger positive or small negative impacts.
Pupils in the comparison schools were experiencing dedicated reading time comparable to intervention schools and were using literacy interventions – two-fifths of comparison schools who responded to surveys were using general, non-targeted reading schemes with their Year 5 cohort and almost half were using reading interventions (such as Lexia, Catch Up Literacy and Every Child a Reader). This may mean that there was not enough ‘unique’ activity in AR schools to produce measurable differences compared to comparison schools.
The results of this trial need to be considered alongside the positive result on the reading comprehension scores of poor readers at the beginning of secondary school in the first EEF trial. Accelerated Reader may be more promising when used as a targeted intervention for Year 7 pupils with below age-expected reading levels.
- Children who started Accelerated Reader in Year 5 made, on average, no additional progress in reading compared to children in the comparison schools. This result has a very high security rating.
- Children eligible for free school meals who started Accelerated Reader in Year 5 made, on average, no additional progress in reading compared to FSM children in the comparison schools. However, this result has high statistical uncertainty.
- Data during the first year of implementation indicated that AR was implemented as intended in intervention schools. During the additional (second) year of the trial one third of pupils were no longer accessing AR. Findings suggest that higher fidelity was not associated with better outcomes.
- The implementation and process evaluation suggests that most of the ‘business as usual’ comparison schools had similar amounts of dedicated reading time and some used other evidence-based reading schemes and reading interventions.
- AR was very well received by the vast majority of teachers, teaching assistants, and librarians who perceived positive impacts on pupil reading ability, reading stamina, and attitudes.