Saturday, March 29, 2008

Stupid AR

When the kids decided to go to school and leave homeschooling in the dust (yes, I really did let them make this decision) I knew that I would have more problems adjusting than they did. I have a lot of difficulty with the way schools ruin nearly everything for kids. The establishment of governed education sucks the being right out of the students, my kids included. Because we live in a small town the choices for schools were nearly nil: the public school (over my dead, rotten, bird pecked body), the Zion school (where reportedly kids come out several grades behind) or the Catholic school (where we identify religiously, sort of). It was basically a no-brainer, the Catholic school or nothing.

For the past year and a half I have been half pleased and half frustrated by what my children have endured. The disappointment has not ever reached the point where I feel they need to be pulled from the school but sometimes my disgust has been difficult to hide. One program in particular is the Accelerated Reader by (Renaissance Learning). Before my kids were even enrolled in school I preached against this program after I saw the local public elementary school posting students total number of points along the hallway when you enter the school. It is a year-long contest to earn the most points by the end of the year at which point the winning child receives some type of prize (probably lunch from McDonald's) and the winning parent earns the right to put an ad in the local paper announcing their brilliant child as the high AR score for the year. It is enough to make me vomit, especially in a town where we don't keep score in soccer games but we keep score in reading.

Part of my leaning toward the Catholic school was the fact that no AR scores were posted anywhere and their reward system for passing AR's was raffle tickets that were then drawn for a monthly prize. There was no cumulation of points, no grand prize, no big-headed parents. Each child was required to read 5 AR books every 9 weeks and take the corresponding tests. I didn't love the system but I could live with it.

Well, low and behold, all half decent things must come to an end when the company decides to mix things up a bit and make the system even better, more accurate, less work for the teachers, lowered self-esteem for the kids, frustration for child and parent, and in the end probably more money for the company. In the old system, at least at the Catholic school, the kids could pretty much pick any book they wanted to read (as long as it wasn't too low of a level) and take a test. In the new system their reading level has been averaged based on previous levels of books read and a range has been established, you may only read books in your range and a certain number of points must be attained in 9 weeks to "pass" your AR goal. If you choose to read a book outside of your level (a.k.a. challenge yourself) you may not take an AR test on that particular book. In other words you may read that book "for fun" but that type of pleasure will not be encouraged. If it is found that you are passing your tests at 90% or higher and you are reading books at the top end of your level your level will be adjusted. This means that easier books you may also "enjoy" will not counted toward AR tests.

I want my children to love reading. I don't want AR to drain them of this desire or cause anxiety about earning enough points in the required amount of time. Thankfully, parent/teacher conferences were scheduled at the time these changes were being implemented (Coincidence? I think not). I did not hide my loathing of this program and the teacher (bless her) partially agrees me but as an employee she is required to include AR in her curriculum.

All I can do for now is assure my children that I don't care if they read the required books and let them know that I am willing to talk to their teachers and have them excused from AR altogether. Once again, it is their choice. Stupid AR.


abby said...

Stupid AR. Even if the kids choose not to participate, then they have to deal with the fact that everybody else participates except them. Nobody likes to be different. Rock, hard place, etc.

Mechelle said...

And you know Seneca does not like to be different. I wish she would give me the go ahead to say "No to AR tests!" Hey, maybe I could just get a t-shirt that says that and wear it once a week to school. There is an article available through ERIC that I am trying to interloan called The Argument Against Accelerated Reader. Hopefully it will give me some ammunition.

Erin the Librarian said...

Don't ever get into a discussion with a public librarian about AR, unless you want to be subjected to a rant not unlike Vinnie talking about farm machinery or politics. The stories I could tell you about parents and how they treat their kids and other kids based on AR would make your skin shrivel and make you want to go after them with sharp scissors.

BTW, your librarian is ILLing that article for you.

Erin the Librarian said...

Ok, I think I found an online link to it. I can use this link from my computer at work, so see if you can try it.
If it asks for a password, I used "chesaning".