January 5, 2010

Does the Accelerated Reader Program (ARP) positively affect student achievement on standardized tests, specifically TAKS?

Reading is a basic skill that is being taught to children all over the world. On of the measures of a country's education level is by determining the number of people who can read and write. The literacy rate of a country can also be used to determine the progress that the country is capable of achieving through its people. The ever-changing circumstances under which societies operate require people to be able to adopt. More often that not the ability of the people to adapt is determined by how much they were able to learn about the conditions of the environment they move.


            Given the importance of developing and effectively using the skill of reading, it is also important to determine if this skill really helps people in understanding the world around. In order to determine this, the research being proposed will be working with students in the primary level. The research will attempt to make the correlation between the accelerated readers program and its influence in the achievement of students on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills.


Purpose of the Study


            The study aims to provide evidences suggesting or validating that the implementation of the Accelerated Reader Program positively affects the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills.  The research being proposed want to establish the connection between any improvement in the students TAKS scores and their participation in the accelerated readers program. The findings of the research will be able to help students, teachers and parent in determining the kinds of programs that should be implemented in schools. The influences of the ARP will help them to decide what aspects of the programs helps students in achieving the standards recognized as exemplary and excellent.


Research Question(s)


During the course of the research, it is important that the research be able to answer questions leading to the presentation of the data needed to suffice the objectives of the research.  This section of the proposal will be presenting vital questions whose answer can provide needed data in order to formulate a conclusion.  The research should be able to answer the following questions:


-          What is the correlation between reading and learning?

-          What is the correlation between comprehension and learning?

-          Does the Accelerated Readers Program focus on reading comprehension or reading alone?




            The research being proposed will be working in validating the hypothesis that the accelerated readers program positively affects the achievement of students on standardized tests, specifically the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills.


Review of Literature


Reading alone is different from comprehension. In attempting to make the connection between the accelerated readers program and its perceived positive influences of the TAKS scores of students, it is important that the research be able to make the connection between reading, comprehension and learning. These three terms are very important in the development of the understanding of the research being proposed. These terms will allow the research to determine if reading comprehension has anything to do with the improvement of TAKS scores of students who are enrolled in the accelerated readers program.


With this in mind, the following discussions will are aimed at making the initial connection between reading, comprehension and learning. Through this connection, the research being proposed will have a platform, which can be used to determine if the accelerated readers program helps in improving the assessment test scores of students. It is important that the connection between reading and learning be made if the connection between accelerated reader program and TAKS is to be made.


This section will be divided into four main sections. The first two sections will be the brief introduction to the two key programs involved in the research – accelerated readers program and Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills. Providing the nature of the two programs will allow both the readers and the researcher to determine what elements of the programs must be focused on in order to determine the correlation between the two.


The third section will be discussing the relationship between reading and comprehension. The process of understanding the difference between reading alone and understanding what has been read can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of the accelerated readers program in increasing the ability of the students to understand better the texts that they read. In turn, the presence of better comprehension can be used to explain the increased assessment scores of those who are enrolled in the program.


However, in order to make a smooth connection between the improved comprehension and improved assessment performance of the ARP students the connection between reading comprehension and learning must also be established. This will be made in the fourth part of the literature review.  The discussion in the second part will attempt to illustrate how learning can be maximize if the students are more adept in reading. Examples will be given to illustrate the performance difference between students whose reading skills are within or above their grade level and those whose reading skills are below expectations.


Accelerated Readers Program


            The United States of America believes in the importance of providing its citizenry with the best possible kind of education available.  The nation strives to put education in the forefront of social services that they provide to their people. They also believe that education is a tool that people can use to help not just the individual but the whole country as well.


By producing great minds, a nation can benefit from the contributions that they can make to help in improving the status of the country.  The United States also believe that in order for them to help people better, they would have to start at the beginning. With this, programs to aid the learning process of children have been formulated and implemented.


            One of the programs currently in use in the country is the Accelerated Readers Program.  This program is aims to increase the reading skills of students. The National Reading Panel (2000) expressed that reading comprehension is essential in the advancement of children's reading skill and ultimately their ability to attain education.


The Slavin, Karwiet, Wasik Madden and Dolan (1994) support this statement. They stated the students in the third grade who lack the readings skills are the ones who are not likely to complete high school education. In addition, the shift of societal focus towards technology requires or increases the demand for higher literacy rates. This makes the consequences for those who are falling behind the requirements graver (Bronfenbrenner, McClelland, Wethington, Moen & Ceci, 1996).


In this light, recreational reading programs such as the accelerated readers programs were implemented. The program believes that reading is a skill that can be perfected through practice.  This means that in order for students to meet the expectations, they must constantly engage themselves in reading activities. Unfortunately, today's world offers a lot to children than just a good book to read. Books are now competing against computer games and cable programs for the attention of children.


Under the program, students from kindergarten to grade 12 are encouraged to engage in recreational or motivational reading (Paul, VanderZee, Rue & Swanson, 1996) during their spare time.  The program literature based readings and computers to document the progress of each child. It is also the case that a reward system is implemented. Students who sufficient amount of books and were able to earn enough point through the assessment part of the program are awarded achievement certificates or ribbons and sometimes pizza or ice cream parties.


Studies regarding the effectiveness of the program and its effects on achievements of the students have been carried out. The findings are divided. Some concluded that the program helped in improving the academic performance of students (Anderson, 2001; Ganter, 2000; Lawson, 2000; Facemire, 2000; Scott, 1999) while others claimed that there was no significant statistical increase in the reading comprehension of students enrolled in the program (Mathis, 1996). Rosenheck, Caldwell, Calkins and Perez (1996) also added that neither the frequency of library use nor the attitudes of the students towards reading improved after they attend the program.


Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills


            The Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills is a standardized test that taken by most students from public schools. It replaced a standardized test called TAAS in 1999. The test is being administered to student in the third to eleventh grades. It attempts to measure the attainment of students in fields like Math, Science, English and Reading. In addition, the Texas education standards require that student be able to exhibit certain levels of understanding of the fields mentioned in based on their grade level. 


            For student sin the eleventh, it is required that they pass the TAKS in order for them to graduate. However, if in they fail to pass the test on their first take, they have the chance to retake it. Since the test is divided in to subject matters, the student do not have to retake the entire exam but only those fields in which the failed. This is also the case for third graders. In order for them to advance to the next grade level, they must be able to prove their readiness to do so by passing the exam. The passing rate for the test is relatively low at 55 percent per section.


            The exams vary each year. For example, student will not always be asked to write an essay.  Although, sections like math and reading are always included in the tests give to the students.  Based on the developer of TAKS, the test is untimed. Nevertheless, most schools would ask there students to turn in there papers after ten hours.  Sections that require essay writing are taken in February to give ample time for grading.


            A computer grades the tests with the exception of essays and short answer portions which are graded by Pearson graders that a are Texas residents with a bachelor degree. After the grading process, the results will be scaled and reported. If students get a mark that is higher than the average 90 percent, they will be awarded a status, which is known a Commended. This award is given per section.


            Despite the wide implementation of the TAKS, it is still under criticism. However, the majority of other standardized tests is sharing the criticisms that it receives. One of the criticisms that it receives is psychometric. For example, the math test is correlated to the language ability of the examinee, through the presence of many problem-solving questions. This suggests that the math exam is actually measuring the linguistic ability of the student and not exactly his/her mathematical ability.


However, this criticism brings light to the topic being proposed for the research. If most standardized test tend to correlated others sections of the exam with the linguistic ability of the students, then there must be enough to make the hypothesis that the reading skill of the students helps them in performing well with their academics in a general sense.


Reading and Comprehension


            People have been reading are teaching other to read for more than 5000 years. However, the studies regarding the process of reading have only been started in the past 100 years (Orasanu & Penney, 1986).  Researches before have concluded that reading is a process of words through sounds and sounds by proceeding letter by letter. This suggests that comprehension automatically comes when the words have been translated into its oral form. Therefore, any difficulties in reading are treated by prescribing more time to practicing decoding skills.


            However, new views regarding the matter does not emphasize on decoding much. Rather, it views a person's skill to decode a means of constructing the meaning based on the text. For example, before reading a text the purpose for doing so will first be determined. Afterwards, the readers will think of the things that they already know about the topic. From the predetermined contents of the text, the readers will then expect to see familiar words, which they can easily identify and give meaning. Other unfamiliar words can be defined in the context of word clusters and the words that are familiar to the readers.


            This means that in comprehending what has been read, each word has a defined meaning and cannot be connoted as what the readers wants it to mean. The premise that each word has a defined meaning springs from the assumption that the writer and the reader of the text have shared knowledge, specifically in the topic of the text. This shared knowledge will lead to the same understanding of the text in the manner that the writer intended the text to be understood. However, if the shared knowledge is lacking there is bound to be misunderstanding since the author defined the words under his/her own understanding and not based on the notion of the reader.


            Because of this, people from different cultural backgrounds will be able to remember the same story in different ways (Bartlett, 1932; Steffensen, Joag-dev & Anderson, 1979).  Moreover, people have the tendency to remember things within the text that are overtly presented compared to those that they are not familiar to prior to reading the text (Spiro, 1980; Bransford & Johnson, 1973). With these ideas in mind, it can be stated that the process of comprehension goes beyond recognizing words or sentences. However, the process of recognition is part of the process of comprehension.


            In the teaching profession, this view can be interpreted that the readers must obtain strategies to be able to infer the message of the author and use the written data in relation to what the reader already knows about the topic (Orasanu & Penney, 1986). This goes to show what the readers know about the topic of the written text influences how and what they will be able to understand in the process of reading. This suggests that the emphasis in learning and teaching reading must not be in decoding rather in developing language as well as communication skills.  However, this does not suggest that the process of decoding is being disregarded altogether. This view only place more importance on the need for a more interactive reading process rather than on a sequential view.


            However, the definition of the term comprehension is yet to be presented. According to Van den Broek, Kendeou, Kremer, Lynch, Butler, White and Lorch (2004), comprehension has been defined as the ability to retain information regarding what the text is about. On the other hand, others would state that comprehension is the ability to apply the knowledge conveyed in the text on actual situations. This suggests that some view comprehension as the ability of the reader to recognize the theme or moral of the text as well as their skill in making use of these morals in real life.


            It is also being presupposed that comprehension is composed of different process such as the construal of the information presented in the text, making use of what is already known and the formulation of a rational or consistent representation of what the text is about in the perception of the reader (Applebee, 1978; Gernsbacher, 1990; Graesser & Clark, 1985; Kintsch van Dijk, 1978; Mandler & Johnson, 1977; Stein &Glenn, 1979; Trabasso, Secco, & van den Broek, 1984). It is from the readers' ability to form mental representations of what they have read that their ability to do other related tasks takes root. For example, it is only when the readers have comprehended a text can they retell the story or apply the knowledge learned from the text to actual situations.


            Being able to make the connection between the words to understand sentences and making the connection between sentences allows readers to understand the entirety of the text presented. It has been reiterated in the previous discussions that existing knowledge about the topic influences the process of comprehension. To better illustrate this, let us take the following examples. Below are two sets of sentences.


1.)   Mary stayed late last night. She was late on her first class the following day.

2.)   The moon exerts gravity. It affects the development of life forms on earth.


Observe that in the first set, it would be easy for the skilled to make the connection between the two sentences. They will be able to make the connection that the reason behind Mary's tardiness the following day was her failure to go to bed early. This type of meaningful relation is called causal, where the reader identifies the statement in one of the sentences as the cause of the action or situation stated in another sentence. Even though, it was not explicitly expressed in the text that Mary's tardiness was caused by her actions of staying late the previous night, the connection was made since the inference that staying late can cause people to wake up late the following day is present. This illustrates how existing knowledge influences the comprehension of the text.


            On the second set, there might be difficulty in making the connection between the two sentences. This is brought about by the inadequacy of existing knowledge regarding the topic. This inadequacy results serves a hindrance to readers in readily making the connection. In this case, the readers would have to search for information that would help them determine if the gravity being exerted by the moon indeed affect the development of life on earth.


            According to Singer (1994) and Van Den Broek (1994), readers process texts in the same manner that was used to illustrate meaningful relationship above. The examples and the explanation suggest that successful construction of mental representation of the text contributes to the understanding of the text itself as well as the knowledge being conveyed in it.


            This suggests that if the reader have existing knowledge, not necessarily broad, on a number of topics the greater the chance that they will be able to comprehend more texts that discusses various topics. It has often been said that experience is the best teachers. Most writers write base on their experiences. This means that in order for writers and readers to arrive at the same level of understanding of the text they must also share the same kind of experiences. Take the illustration below.

Person B

Person C

Person A


            The three circles represent the scope of experiences of three different persons. It can be seen that there are parts that are common to all three persons and there are experiences that are being shared by only two of three. The overlapping areas of the circle represent the shared knowledge of the three individuals. The bigger the overlapping areas are the more knowledge they share with each other.  In following the explanation that readers can readily understand the text if the share a bigger area with the writer of the text.


            Since reading provides people with increased chances of gathering new information about many things, it can be stated that practicing reading can help people create a compilation of mental representation of information that they can use to comprehend future texts. At the beginning of the process, it may be the case that students may have difficulty in comprehending the texts since they are still in the process of collating information. However, as time goes by and with continuous practice they will be able to develop the traits needed to become skilled readers.


Reading and Learning


            Children are being to school in order to learn about the world around them as well as the people that affects there growth as a person. Education's primary goal is to promote the exchange of information in order for children to maximize their learning potentials.  Therefore, learning can be defined as the acquisition of skills, knowledge, values and attitudes through studying. The attainment of the said factors can cause a change in behaviour that can be measured. In addition, the learning process also allows individuals to make new mental constructs or amend previous mental constructs (Wikipedia, 2006).


            Learning can be achieved through different means. The most basic is imitation. Children would often imitate adults and in time, they will grow accustomed to the actions that they imitated growing up. Another is learning through teaching. This is the kind of learning facilitated in schools. However, whatever kind of learning process takes place, one common element is present. The element of imparting know things or ideas top the student is always present. This means that learning happens when the student is able to share the same kid of knowledge or skill the teacher possesses.


            In a way, this view on the learning process is comparable to the view that reading comprehension happens when the reader is able to share the experience or knowledge of the writer of the text. If the learning process involves the process of information transfer and processing, then it can be concluded that reading comprehension is also part of the learning process and vice versa. Students can learn through reading. While reading the student must be able to comprehend the text in order to learn from it.


            In today's educational system, it is undeniable that students and teachers alike depend mostly on what textbooks tell them. The information they use on formulating examinations are based on these textbooks. Therefore, students have to be able to read and comprehend the information provided by their textbooks in order to properly answer test questions and pass.


Even though, it is not the only way to measure the degree of learning that the student was able to achieve for the school year most schools still them as the base for charting the progress of students. Since this is still the procedure being used by most educational institution, it is important that students be taught in a manner that would allow them to achieve the requirements of these institutions.


            The role of reading skills is not solely used for understanding literature or English and other linguistic based subjects. It is also important in understanding the theories presented in the sciences and math. Instructions during exams are written. This means that students would have to comprehend the instruction before they can even begin answering the questionnaire. Therefore, reading skills as well as comprehension is important in ensuring that the students learn based on the standards of institutions.


            As long as written texts are considered as the foundations of educational systems the needs to acquire reading skills will remain essential to students. When the day comes that societies no longer uses texts to document their history, scientific and mathematical advances as well as literature, then maybe students and teachers alike will not have to focus their attention on the matter.



Research Design


Data will be provided by two major sources and the method for analyzing the two kinds of data will differ. The first major source of data is the pool of previous literature.  Previous studies will allow the researcher to use reading and learning theories that have already been accepted by the academic community. These will also allow the researcher to determine the research gap for the topic being proposed. The process of identifying the research is important if the researcher wants to ensure that the findings of the research will be able to contribute new insights on the topic.

Aside form the systematic review of related literature, the researcher will also be using have to survey two sets of students in order to obtain the data needed to determine if a correlation exists between the accelerated reader program and the improvement of achievement of students in the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills. the details of the second method will be discussed in the procedures part of the proposal.




            The researcher will have to identify two sets of participants. The first set will be composed of students enrolled in the accelerated reader program while the population of the second set are students who are not currently enrolled in the program. Given the findings of previous studies that only highly involved participants of the ARP show significant improvements in their TAKS, the researcher must ensure that the population of the first set be evenly distributed among low, medium and high participants of the ARP.


            The TAKS scores of the students belonging to the two groups will then be obtained from their schools. The mean of the scores will be calculated. Afterwards, it will be compared to the previous test results of the students. This will allow the researcher if and upwards or downward movement occurred.




            To ensure that the variable involved in the movement of the grades of the participants is their participation in the accelerated reader program, the researcher will have to control other variables. As such, the researcher must ensure that the participants of the research do not participate in other programs that have the potential of imitating the impacts of the ARP.  


            Afterwards, the researcher will have to use the median to determine if the students from the two sets delivered positive or negative assessment scores compared to the previous year. The researcher will have to compute for the median of the scores of the two sets of students from the previous year. In addition, the research will also be using the correlation coefficient to determine the relationship between the ARP and it perceived positive effects on the assessment scores of students.


Data Collection


            The research will be using tow methods for gathering data. This is brought about by the fact that there are two major methodologies that will be used by the research. For the first method, which is the systematic review of related literature, the researcher will obtain data from journals and books on learning and teaching. This will ensure that the credibility of the sources has been established.


The second methodology calls for the analysis of the actual test scores of the participants and comparing them with the previous results. The researcher will have to obtain the permission of the school authorities as well as the parents of the  participants to gain access to their test scores.


Data Analysis


            Calculating fro the mean of the test scores of the two sets of participants will only tell the researcher if there was an upward or downward movement of scores for that year for the two sets of students. In order for the researcher to determine the correlation between the accelerated reader program and the TAKS scores of the students, the researcher can use the correlation coefficient.


Correlation coefficient states that increasing value of one variable that results to the increase of the other variable means that a positive correlation is present. On the other hand, a negative correlation is characterized by an increasing value of one variable that results to the decrease value of the other variable. However, if the correlation is close to zero than is can be stated that there is no association between the two variables.


Limitations and Implications


            As for the methods presented above, some issues may lead to the methods not being maximized to their potentials. For example, gaining access to the test scores of the participants can be hindered by the disapproval of the parents of the school authorities. However, this can be easily overcome if the researcher will thoroughly explain to the parties the aim of the researcher as well as what the research can do to improve the performance of children when it comes to standardized tests and the academics in general.


            The lack of cooperation from the authorities means that the study will have no chance of being completed. Therefore, the researcher have the responsibility of ensuring that all the necessary authorization s are in place before the actual start of the study. This will give way for any troubleshooting that needs to be done in case any of the predetermined plans goes wrong.


            It may also be the case that the research be affected by inadequate time to gather all the necessary data. It must be understood that the longer the observation period or intervention, controlling of variables, from the researcher the more accurate the findings can be. The researcher must be able to start the research in time with the beginning of the accelerated readers programs for the current school year. This will ensure that the researcher can attest that the only variables that can be attributed to the changes, if there are any, to the participation of the students in the program or otherwise.




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1 comment:

Mark Pennington said...

Following are short summaries of the most common arguments made by researchers, teachers, parents, and students as to why using AR is counterproductive. Hence, The 18 Reasons Not to Use Accelerated Reader:

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