Evaluating the Accelerated Reader Scheme
An evaluation of Renaissance Learning's AR scheme explored whether the programme has a positive effect on the reading comprehension of randomly assigned pupils, particularly those who are eligible for free school meals.
What is the issue?
The Renaissance Learning: Accelerated Reader programme (AR) is a widely used literacy programme which aims to give teachers the information needed to monitor students' reading practice and make informed decisions to guide their future learning. Vocabulary growth and literacy skills are also measured, giving teachers insight into how well students have responded to reading schemes and class instruction.
How did we help?
RAND Europe was commissioned to carry out an evaluation of the Accelerated Reader Scheme. The evaluation sought to answer two questions in particular:
- Does the scheme have a positive effect on the reading comprehension of pupils that are randomly assigned to the intervention?
- Does the scheme have a positive effect on the reading comprehension of assigned pupils who are eligible for free school meals (FSM)?
The project team conducted a wait-list cluster-randomised controlled trial in 181 English primary schools, with schools being assigned to either treatment (AR) or control (business as usual). The wait-list element relates to schools being randomised to receive AR for the first time in the 2016/17 school year, or the 2017/18 school year. The primary outcome measured was the Key Stage 2 grade score for Reading.
The implementation and process evaluation involved observations of the online training programme for staff in the intervention schools, online staff surveys, workshops with staff in a select number of schools and analysis of administrative implementation data from Renaissance Learning.
What did we find?
- 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 EEF 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