Wednesday, December 21, 2016

No AR, No Big Deal

This post was written with Brandon Blom (@brandonkblom, you can check out his blog here). Brandon and I are both elementary school principals in the Roseville City School District.  

Last year the decision was made to stop using Accelerated Reader at our school.  Since we posted our blog post Why We Are Moving on from AR, we keep getting the same two questions: What are you doing now that AR is gone? How are teachers and students feeling without it?

As principals we get the opportunity to be in classes and talk to students and teachers on a daily basis.  We have the opportunity to see kids in all grade levels reading and engaged in activities with their reading.  So what have we seen?  There has definitely been a shift in how students show their understanding of what they are reading.   Teachers have been creative with their activities allowing kids choice and a chance to share what they are learning in multiple ways.  We are both seeing things that weren’t in our classrooms a year ago when we relied on AR quizzes.  
Some of the things we see include:
Book Conferences - Teachers are meeting with kids one on one to talk about the books they are reading.  Teachers are asking questions.  Kids are talking.  Conversations are taking place not only about the book, but also about if the books are a good fit, and recommendations are being made for other books to read.

IMG_2753.JPGBook Reviews - There are a variety of formats on how this looks in classes.  Some teachers are incorporating technology and using Padlet or Bookopolis for their reviews.  Others are using traditional paper and pencil for kids to write a review.

Book Talks - Kids are sharing their book with others.  They’re talking with partners, small groups, and in front of the whole class. This not only shows their understanding, but also generates an excitement for other students to read the book.  

Keeping Track of Books Read - Some teachers have created graphs or Google forms to log the book genres.  Others have students make their own Google sites for students to log books they read and their overall rating of the book.  

Example of a student website for book tracking

Reader’s Notebooks - Some classes have created personal notebooks where kids get to respond in writing or pictures about their
reading.  The kids get to choose what they want to write about and/or draw.  The kids loves these books!  They love that they get to choose.

Sharing what we see is important, but we also feel it is important to hear from our teachers.  After talking with them there is a mixed response.  For those that had their students take AR quizzes on a regular basis, some miss the accountability they feel that they quizzes gave them. Others however love that their kids are talking more about books and not having the pressure around reaching a goal.  

“I love the Reading Response Notebook and how I've seen the students take pride in them. The only negative for me without AR is not having the ease of looking online to see how many books a student has read and their comprehension (on details at least) of them.”
Jill Padilla, 2nd Grade Teacher, Sargeant Elementary

“No longer the stress of taking test and wondering if a student should read a book because of its point value. Kids are reading a book because they want to.”
Erin Roberts, 3rd Grade Teacher, Stoneridge

“Negative-AR is a quick way to check in with student reading. I liked that it was an option for kids to take a quiz if they wanted. Some kids really liked it.
Positive- Some kids got stressed out with goals/points. Parents also felt this, so it's a positive to not have ‘worry’ as a part of reading.”
Sheila Schue, 3rd Grade Teacher, Stoneridge

Mr. J, a 4th grade teacher as Sargeant put it best, “I really didn't look for something to replace it. I have been blessed with a group of students that truly love reading and we make time to read (for pleasure) everyday.”

That is exactly what we want for all of our kids.  We want them to find time to read every day and truly love it now and for years to come.  

Not only are we seeing differences in what kids are doing, but we also see teachers sharing ideas with others.   Two of the teachers from Stoneridge Elementary are even providing professional development to other K-5 teachers in our district at upcoming professional development.  Here is their session description:

If you’re looking for some engaging, practical, and motivating strategies to track your students’ reading, then look no further! Our techniques will help your students fall in love with reading and books and we will you help build a classroom community of readers.  We will be discussing some electronic tools such as Padlet and Bookopolis, as well as some good old fashioned paper and pencil strategies.  We will share best practices that incorporate writing, speaking & listening, and more. Your students will be begging for time to read and you will be amazed with their growth and love of reading.  

That description sounds a lot better than teaching teachers how to give an online multiple choice test.  

When we asked students if they missed AR, there were a variety of responses.  Some students mentioned that they miss the rewards aspect of it.  This isn’t hard to believe since most kids like a reward if one is offered.  However, once again the research is clear on rewards for students and that they produce short-term gains but not long-term results. We want the long-term results.  It was interesting to us that when we talked to students, even the ones that liked AR, not a single student said they read less because AR is gone.  We could find many students who did not like the pressure of meeting their AR goals and are enjoying reading more than ever.  

At the end of the day, take away AR, and your school will survive.  We can’t say for sure that kids are reading more without AR, but we know they are not reading less.  Without a doubt, kids are talking more about what they are reading than ever before.  Kids are sharing books with others and getting excited about new ones they hope to read.  Teachers are coming up with creative ways for their kids to share their reading and understanding with others; something that a multiple choice quiz doesn’t do.  There is also the cost.  Our school combined are saving over $7,000 by not having AR.  So yes, some students miss the point rewards.  Some teachers miss the accountability piece they felt the quizzes provided.  If students are talking more about books, reading just as much (if not more than ever), and teachers are coming up with more creative ways to know what kids are reading, then there is no reason to go back to AR.


Additional Reading Resources
Assessment, Choice, and the Learning Brain- Edutopia
10 Ways to Ditch The Reading Log- Middle School Minds Blog

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Notice the Positive

As I was watching my son's baseball games this weekend, my thoughts drifted back to school, which then led to my own life as a mom.  It's funny how things tend to connect together when it comes to kids.

Listening to the coach, I was reminded how positive and negative words can have such and impact on children.  More importantly, I was reminded about the fact that the positives have to outweigh the negatives. I constantly heard what the boys were doing wrong, where they needed to improve.  I rarely heard the positive pointed out.

It seems that in all parts of life it's easy to focus on the negative with kids, and then when they are doing the right thing, we're so thankful that we don't say anything at all.

That's the mistake. 

We need to acknowledge the right thing. We need to focus on the positive.  All kids want attention. All kids are going to seek attention whether they consciously do it or not. We need to let them know we see them. We need to let them know we notice them doing the right thing. 

In the classroom and at home, it may seem exhausting at first to always be pointing out the positive, but it pays off. It pays off for us as educators and parents, but more importantly it pays off for the kids. They feel noticed, valued, and they see that their efforts to do the right thing is appreciated. 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Teacher is More Important

I'm getting tired of all the e-mails and advertisements about computer based programs guaranteed to increase student achievement.  It seems like as soon as common core standards rolled out and the new testing system was developed, all these companies jumped on the bandwagon with new programs to push into the classrooms.  They latched on to the anxiety of educators who were adapting to the new standards and made people believe that their program was needed in order to get results.  

Well guess what? They're not needed. Nothing beats quality first instruction from a teacher.

The more programs we throw at students in hopes to help achievement, the less time there actually is to teach.  And I firmly believe that nothing can replace an effective teacher. The teacher has the ability to form relationships, really know their students and what they need. Programs don't build relationships, teachers do. 

So before signing up for the latest program, stop and think: Is that really what my kids need? 
Believe in yourself and your ability. 

Sunday, October 2, 2016

More to Care About

Often I hear people who aren't in education make comments about state testing. It's pretty common for me to hear, "All they care about is the test scores." "They" being teachers and principals. I really want to interrupt and ask, "Do you really think that's what they care about?" I don't know one person in education that will tell me that test scores are their top concern. 

Do we talk about test scores? Yes. Do we look at them and try to measure growth and areas of improvement? Yes. But is that what we truly care about? No way! 

There are many things happening in our school that test scores can't measure. There are much more important things that I care about. 

- I care about the relationship the student has made with their teacher. 
- I care about the English learner who walked onto campus able to say one word in English. The scores will tell me he is far below grade level. But I care about the fact that in one year he has built friendships and created relationships with multiple staff members. He is outgoing and talking on the playground with his peers and participating in class. 
- I care about individual growth. Where were they when they started and where are they now? And it's not always academics- there's more to learning and growing than just the standards. 
- I care about the kids who come to school happy everyday and put forth their best effort in everything they do. 
- I care about the kid who just one year ago couldn't write his name or one legible word in 3rd grade. He refused to talk or participate in class. He missed 30-70 days a school year for the first three years of schooling. The test scores won't tell me that last year he missed less than five days and by the end he was writing sentences. 
- I care if they slept well the night before and came to school with food in their stomach. 
- I care about each one of them as individuals. 

When it comes down to it, I care about the kids. I care about helping and supporting them. I care about their growth socially, emotionally and academically.  I care about their happiness.

They're more than just a test score. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

My Kids Too - A Personal Reflection

What do I love about my job? The kids! If I'm stuck in a meeting or feel overwhelmed with my to do list, what makes me happy? The kids! It always seems to be the answer.

- I love getting out and playing with them at recess. Last Friday I played soccer with a group of 4th grade boys and enjoyed every minute of it. Not only did I get some exercise in, but had fun connecting with them and laughing. 

- I love bringing the disco ball out to recess and watching the kids dance around and sing with everyone. 

- I love sitting and reading with kids in their classroom.

 - I love the smiles I see on their faces.

With all this being said, I came home the other night and felt guilty. I was exhausted. I put so much in at work, and I came home to my two boys and thought, what about connecting with them and making them smile?  When was the last time I went outside and played kickball or basketball? When have I blasted the music and let them be silly and dance around? 

I could say they're busy. They have sports almost every day of the week. They have homework. But that's not an excuse. I give my best every day to 450 kids at school and I need to do the same at home to my two boys.

What do I love about my life? Not only the kids at school, by my kids too

Saturday, August 13, 2016

The First Day - I Can't Wait!

A new year, a new beginning. 

Most people get to say that on New Year's Day every year, but for me, it also comes in August. The start of a new school year. 

I've been preparing for this school year since the last one. Every time I would do something I'd reflect on ways to change it for the future. I made my list all summer of things I want to do this year. Things with my staff. Things with the kids. I read books, I read blogs, I listened to ideas over Voxer, and I added more to the list. Not only did my list grow, but so did my excitement. 

All of those things inspired me and motivated me to do what's best for kids. It's about them.  

I run into people and I hear the tone in their voice or see the look on their face when they say, "Oh, school starts soon, you have to go back. Sorry." It's said like it's a bad thing, like I should dread it.

I don't dread it, I'm excited.  Yes, it's always a lot of work starting off a new year and I'll miss the time I got to spend with my kids, but that doesn't mean starting school is a bad thing.

I'm excited to see the kids on the first day! I'm excited for the school year!

Let's all be like Nemo :)

To all of you in education- 
May this be the best year yet!  Have a wonderful school year! 

Friday, August 12, 2016

Reading and Learning Together via Voxer

I can easily say I love to learn and I love to read. This summer I had the chance for both as I committed to reading quite a few books, both educational and non-educational. My books were piled high with hopes of getting as much reading done as possible.
Just the educational ones -
forgot to take one of my others. 

No matter which book it was, there was inspiration found everywhere; something to take away for the future. But what inspired me the most was The Book Whisperer and  Hacking Leadership.  These two were different than the others.  They were different because I didn't just read them on my own; I participated in a book club via Voxer. I read The Book Whisperer with teachers at our school and Hacking Leadership with educators across the country. The experience was something that added to the reading; it made it more enjoyable, increased my learning, and made me even more excited for the new school year.

My top reasons for loving my book clubs via Voxer (and why I think everyone needs to be a part of one!):

1. Learning together is better than alone. I could have easily read the books on my own and reflect on next steps, but it's so much better to have someone to talk to and share ideas. Hearing one idea would spark another and we could continue a discussion for multiple days.

2. It's inspirational. Every week I was inspired by listening to our staff share ideas that will benefit the students at our school. Their enthusiasm was evident and I can't wait for the year to begin! Daily the Hacking Leadership group inspired me with their innovative ideas and willingness to try new things.   Unknowingly they pushed me out of my comfort zone and encouraged me to take risks.  Lots of plans were made for the school year. 

3. It creates a common language and network of support. Now on campus I have people I can talk to about The Book Whisperer and refer back to ideas I read and strategies shared.  I can support teachers as they implement new ideas and we can support each other as we try things school wide.  With Hacking Leadership I have connected with other leaders and we continue to brainstorm  ideas on how we can try the hack in our schools. I know we will continue to share our successes and failures as the year goes on.  

4. It's anytime, anywhere.  I'm not good on a set day and a set time to meet for book clubs.  There is always something going on and I miss a date (or more!).  Voxer allowed me to participate when I could no matter what day or time.  There were some days I listened in late at night when the kids were asleep and other days I skipped it all together while I disconnected.  That's the beauty of it.  I could get caught up and join right back in!

After this experience I've decided a book club via Voxer is a must for every summer.  If you haven't been a part of one, I suggest you try! :)

Friday, July 22, 2016

Lessons Learned from the Baseball Field (2 of 2)

Lesson Two - Always Keep a Positive Attitude

As I reflected on notes I took during my son's baseball game, I thought back to a previous coach of his. The coach used to say that he understands if mistakes are made, but there is no excuse about attitude and effort. I have to agree.

Attitude is everything and this time, I'm not referring to the kids, I'm talking about the adults. 

Kids feed off of our emotions and attitude.

Out on the ball field this week, I saw it. We're down by 4 runs and the kids are feeling it. Coach is mad. Clipboard thrown to the ground. Head down and mumbling. 

What does that convey to the kids?
- I'm done?
- I've lost hope?
- We don't have a chance?
- I don't like you anymore?

Can't tell you for sure, but I know it doesn't communicate anything positive. It doesn't help. It doesn't motivate. 

How can this apply to our schools? There are days when the adults are upset on campus. It's been a rough morning at home. Drop off was a nightmare. The students just won't stop talking. The lesson I spent hours on was a disaster. We're upset. We're frustrated. We're angry. We're tired. 

We need to be able to push things aside and be there for the kids.  We're the adults. We need to keep the positive attitude.

As a mom and principal, this is something I need to remember all the time.  My attitude affects those around me, and I want my attitude to have a positive affect on others.

The kids need it.  The kids deserve it!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Lessons Learned from the Baseball Field (1 of 2)

Lesson 1 - Appreciate the Effort 

As I sit here watching my son's baseball game, I feel compelled to write.  We're at the end of the sections tournament and it's quite intense.  Emotions are high and the boys are losing. 

Here's a bit of the current scene:

- Ball hit foul towards first base and my son runs to catch it - "Nice effort!" yells the coach and team in the dugout 

- Pop up to right center, two players run to try and catch the ball.  It's missed. - again you hear "Nice effort!"

In both cases, the coach could have been frustrated with the missed opportunity of an out, but he wasn't.  Maybe he was, but you didn't see it.  Instead, he recognized the effort. 

Whether it's sports, the classroom, or any aspect of life, appreciate the effort. Not only appreciate it but acknowledge it too. 

Not one day have I seen my boy step out on the ball field and give anything less than 100%.  Has he struck out? Yes.  Has he made an error on defense? Yes. But without a doubt he is working hard and trying. 

It's just like the kids in our schools that give their 100% everyday. Are there times they do things we don't want them to?  Yes. Do they miss a problem we've been reviewing for days? Yes. Do they fail a test we thought they would pass? Yes. But it's not for lack of effort.

It's not that they're not trying. I don't know a kid who walks into school and thinks, "I'm going to see how little I can accomplish today." 

These are kids we are working with day in and day out. They're trying. They're making an effort. It's our job to recognize that and validate it.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Isn't It Easy?

As I sit back and reflect about my second year as a principal, I think about the journey: the highs, the lows, the challenges, the things I wish I would have done differently, and everything I still want to do. One thing that stands out to me is comments that have been made from people outside of education.  It usually goes something like this:

Them: You're in your second year?  So it's easy now, right? 

Me: Not sure I would say it's easy. A little different, but not easy. 

Them: But it's your second year, you know what to expect.

Me: Well, I know the paperwork things that have to get done. My site plan, safety plan, scheduling ...things like that.  But there are a lot of things that you can't really plan for.

Them: Well what else do you really have to do?

I usually end up wrapping up the conversation then or switching the subject because I feel like I'm trying to convince someone of something they just can't understand.

Is it easy? No way.  Do I think it's ever really going to be easy? Nope.  But people tend to think that if it's not easy, then I must not like it.  Our jobs aren't something that you can plan out every day and know what to "expect" as people may think.  I can always have my list of things I want to get done, but each day brings something new.  The best planned out day can go sideways from the moment I walk onto campus.

But being easy doesn't equate to enjoyment.  I didn't move into leadership because I thought it would be easy.  I love my job. I get to make a difference every day in the lives of so many.  I get to play, laugh, learn, lead, and be there for so many kids that need me every day.

So although there are days that seem like I don't have a minute to sit down and take a breath, days that I am emotionally exhausted when I get home, and days I can't even think about what I actually accomplished, I wouldn't have it any other way.  There is nothing else that I would rather be doing.


Friday, May 27, 2016

The Joy a Book Can Bring

I think sometimes I take for granted that my two boys are avid readers and love to read. Sometimes I wonder how it all happened. What did I do to make them love to read? What did their teachers do to make them love to read?

The thing is, I don't think it was any "one" thing. I think there can be a variety of things that inspire the love of reading, and what inspired one child may not inspire another.  As I look around our house though, I notice something very obvious: we have books everywhere. Since before they were born there were books in the house.

This made me think about some of my students. I can’t help but think that some are going home to houses where the only books they have are the ones brought home from school.  How are they ever going to find that book that sparks their interest or inspires them to keep reading when they don’t have anything to pick up and read?

So I started talking to kids.  

We would sit in my office and talk about books.  Conversations varied depending on the students. Some sounded like this?

Me: Do you like to read?
Student: No
Me: Why not?
Student: It’s boring.
Me: What kind of books do you have at home?
Student: None

Right then I knew that they just haven’t found the right book.  We would continue to talk about their interests in order for me to help figure out a book recommendation.

Two Quick Stories
I’ve been working with a student who has had a similar conversation to the example above.  He always said there was nothing he liked until one day he mentioned that there was one book he liked.  Just one.  And his teacher had it.  He went back to class to get it. He brought it in and we hopped online and ordered six of them. He was so excited. The books came in and he couldn't wait to read them. He was in disbelief when I said he could take them home and they were his to keep.
Just a few of the books the kids picked out 
Two girls came in one day to talk to me in my office. They just wanted to talk. To be honest, they struggle sometimes making positive choices and they follow each other's lead. When one does something, so does the other. One of them saw a new book I had in my office and we started talking about books. One shared that her favorite books were Dr. Seuss. The other one agreed. I asked if they had any at home and they both said no. Actually, they said they don't really have any books at home. So I went online and ordered some books.  Every day they would check in with me to see if they arrived. We sat down and they went through all the books. Their faces lit up! We made a plan. They'd each get a book. Every Friday after that, if they were working hard in their class, they could come pick a book to take home and keep. They literally squealed in delight walking out of my office with books in their hands.

The story doesn't end there. My conversation with many kids turns to books. I always ask about books they have at home and when I hear they don't, we hop online and order, or I find books in my own home, or hit up the local garage sale site on Facebook.

I realized that buying books for kids is something I love to do.  It doesn’t seem like a big deal to me, but the light in their eyes and excitement in their voice is priceless.  From here on out I will always make sure my budget allows for books.  Not just for books in the library or classrooms, but books kids can take home and call their own.  

Will just the simple act of buying books inspire the love of reading?  Maybe, maybe not.  But nothing can deny what I saw and felt in those moments with the kids as they walked away with their own book.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Last Month Matters

I read How Many Days Left Do You Have to Make a Difference by Dr. Todd Schmidt and it inspired me to share my thoughts. 

As the end of the year approaches there's so much to think about as we wrap up the current year and plan for the text.  And we can't deny that some are daydreaming about time off and upcoming vacations during summer. But I can't help think about our kids. 

Our kids deserve our very best until the bell rings on the last day of school. Although some are looking forward to the end and moving on into the summer, some are not. 

Some of our students best hours of the day are at school. They look forward to coming to school to learn, to have fun, to be with friends, to find security, to feel loved, to experience calm and structure. 


So when some people talking about looking forward to the end of the year, some students might be dreading it. Anxiety increases. Fear of the unknown. Sadness hearing about vacations they're not going to take.

This is something I like to keep in mind when we approach a break from school, especially summer.  My hope is we continue to love them up, keep structure and learning in our classrooms, and have fun with them until the last day. Not only do feel they deserve it, but I strongly believe they need it! 

Friday, April 8, 2016

Why We Are Moving on from AR

This post was written with Brandon Blom (@brandonkblom, you can check out his blog here). Brandon and I are both elementary school principals in the Roseville City School District.  Before being principals, Brandon was a middle school math teacher, and I was an elementary school teacher and then a middle school ELA/History teacher. Both of us are passionate and avid readers.

What has Accelerated Reader (AR) been used for in the past at our schools?
AR has been used as an accountability system to set point goals for kids to achieve by taking quizzes that only include multiple choice questions to check for basic understanding. The points and quizzes are used to monitor if students are reading.

For one year, AR would cost Stoneridge, a school of 550 kids, $4,085.  For Sargeant, 450 kids, the cost would be $3,515.

What do we want for our students?
As principals and parents we want our children to develop and continue a love of reading.  We want them to enjoy reading.  We want students to engage in conversation about books and topics they’ve read.  We want students to be excited about what they’re reading and choose to read; not feel they have to read.

The Stoneridge Staff all dressed up for Storybook Character Dress Up Day.

What do some students and some teachers like about AR? AND What can we do instead?

What do some students and teacher like about AR?

Earning points creates competition      →                 

Taking quizzes holds kids accountable → for reading and makes it easy to know if they are reading
What can we do instead?

Book Challenge  

Book Conferences with the Teacher
Padlet (See example below)
Google Forms (See example below)
Book Reviews and Commercials

Example of 3rd Grade Google Form
3rd Grade Padlet Wall

What do others say about AR?
There are many resources and articles linked below, but we also wanted to pull out a few excerpts from authors, teachers, and principals around the country.  

In The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller, she states, “Programs like Accelerated Reader or Scholastic Reading performance counts, in which books are assigned a point value and students must complete a multiple-choice test after reading them, are the worst distortion of reading I can think of….Furthermore, shifting the purpose for reading a book toward the memorization of plot details and away from an overall appreciation for the books changes how students read.”  

In a recent blog post, teacher and author Pernille Ripp stated, “We must be reading to read.  Not for rewards, not for points, not for accomplishment charts, or even to move through levels.  We must read to become better human beings.  We must read so that we can shape the world around us.”

Jennifer LaGarde, Lead School Library Media Coordinator said: I don't know about you, but... I did not become a reader because someone held me accountable for reading. I did not become a reader because someone offered me "points" or other incentives for the quantity of books or pages I read. I did not become a reader because someone limited my reading selections to only to those titles on a certain reading level or within a specific lexile band. And I did not become a reader because someone forced me to complete reading logs, write book reports or create (and then reuse) the occasional diorama.

Stephen Krashen, educational researcher, stated,  “Despite the popularity of AR, we must conclude that there is no real evidence supporting it, no real evidence that the additional tests and rewards add anything to the power of simply supplying access to high quality and interesting reading material and providing time for children to read them.”

Brandon reading to 1st grade students
As a school, what are you doing to develop the love of reading in both students and staff?
BB: Posters around school for teachers to write “What I am Currently Reading”
Free Book for every student
Storybook Character Dress Up Day
Principal Reads to Every Class at least 4 times a year
Reading Book Whisperer -  entire staff
Collective Commitments Around Reading

RP: Staff Displays their “Hot Read”  - book they’re currently reading or a favorite
Principal Reads to Every Class at least 4 times a year
Monthly Book Cart at Recess - students give a book/take a book
Surprise Guest Readers
Door Decorating with Favorite Dr. Seuss Book

Rachael reading One to 3rd grade students 
What are your personal experiences with AR?
RP:  I’ll admit, as a teacher I used AR in my classroom.  I tweaked it to make it work for me, but there were some things that I liked. Over the past two years I’ve been reading about reading. I’ve taken the time to ask myself what I truly want for not only my own two children but all of the students at our school. I want them to enjoy reading and develop a passion for reading that stays with them throughout their life. This leads me to the question, does AR support that desire?

I think AR can appear to create a desire to read, but it's really just a desire to earn the points and reach the goal. What if the points are gone? Will the child still want to read? What happens if there is something they want to read without points?

On a personal note, my oldest son is an avid reader and has been since 2nd grade. He loves competition so he loves earning his points to prove that he can meet his goal. At the same time, this year I saw him abandon books that he wanted to read for two reasons: there was no AR quiz and books he received as a present (that he really wanted!) were only worth one point and he didn't want to waste his time. It was a sad moment for me when I saw that because of the guidelines around AR, he was giving up on books he really wanted to read.

Enjoying reading with a friend 

BB: I love competition.  It is part of the reason I love sports.  But if we are creating competition where students are losing when it comes to reading, it is wrong.  Have we had students miss their AR goal and feel like a total failure?  Yes we have.  And any system where students feel like they are not a reader because they missed a goal is wrong, especially when they might have read plenty.

My daughter loved reading The One and Only Ivan.  She had to tell me all about it everyday until she was finished.  She told me it was her favorite book she had ever read.  When she went to school to take the AR test she scored a 60%, she didn’t pass yet I know she could tell you everything about that book.  A little while later she was talking to a friend at our house about books they liked.  I didn’t hear her recommend The One and Only Ivan.  I asked her why and her response was that it was just ok.  I know she felt that way because she didn’t pass the AR test.

We had an author come and visit our school.  His book was mainly for 3rd, 4th and 5th graders.  The author did a great job talking about the writing process and then went into his newest book.  Students were so excited about the book because of the way he described it.  After he was done giving his presentation, he asked if there were any questions.  The very first question that came up, “How many AR points is your book worth”.  Depending on what answer he gave students would either still want to read it or for some the book wouldn’t be worth enough points and therefore not worth reading.  

Wrapping it All Up
We know we stated it earlier but our main goal is for our students to love to read.  We want students that are lifelong readers and you don’t do that by worrying about how many points a book is worth or having to answer low level multiple choice questions.  Students become lifelong readers when they have choice in what they get to read, when they have adults that model a love of reading, when they get to have authentic conversations about the books they read and when they read to read and not because of rewards.  When we look at cost, rewards, limiting book selection, having students take tests that no adult would ever do after they read a book, AR doesn’t make sense to us.  And for all those reasons, that is why we are moving on from AR.

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