How to: Become a Super AR User with Star Data

By Margaret Allen, Strategic Education Manager

Over the past few weeks, Renaissance has been hosting a series of half-day workshops which are designed to help Accelerated Reader schools get more out of the programme using Star Reading data… the most recent of these was at Cardiff High School where I went along to speak to both primary and secondary teachers as well as librarians, to learn more about how these sessions will make a positive impact back in school…

One of the first things that became clear as part of the workshop, is that many schools had no idea about the depth of data that is available from the Star Reading tests. Both for new and longstanding Accelerated Reader users, the role of the Star tests was very much to support the reading programme… very few were aware that the data which comes from Star extends much further than the ZPDs (Zone of Proximal Development) for supporting children’s book choices. So, for anyone who hasn’t had the chance to attend one of these workshops, here’s some of the key takeaways that can help you get more out of your Accelerated Reader subscription with Star Reading.

Inform, guide and monitor

Walking through the Star Reading reports in a much greater level of detail, there was a definite ‘light bulb’ moment around the room when it became apparent that the data from Star could provide insight to inform, guide and monitor pupil progress.

Take the screening report, for example. Some schools in the room were not aware that benchmarks could be adjusted – creating more challenging targets or moving them to be more realistic in line with pupil ability.

It was also interesting to see that some schools did not know that the standard four categories within Star could be increased to five, creating the following:

  • At benchmark
  • Above benchmark
  • On watch
  • Intervention
  • Urgent intervention

Grouping the data in this way not only makes it easier to identify gifted and talented pupils, it also provides valuable reporting evidence that can be used to support school inspections.

Taking away test anxiety

Another learning point which was well received in the session centred on the Star testing process. For example, the very first time a child takes a Star test is designed to reduce test anxiety, with practice questions set at a chronological age 18 months younger. In doing so, 80% of children will get the first question right… crucially this helps to make the testing experience less stressful. However, as a computer adaptive assessment programme, this is only true for the very first time a child sits a Star test. All future questions (which are drawn from well over 5,500 in the Star database), adapt to ability… and when a child sits their next Star test, the programme picks up where they left off. No more linear testing – Star helps children to make progress by testing their personal ability.

As a standardised test, advice was also shared on how to control Star testing conditions. By giving every child the same experience every time, the results of Star Reading become much more reliable. There’s a handy presentation already prepared to help schools with this here. (Version for secondaries available here).

Supporting pupil progress

While there was a lot to cover within the session, developing knowledge and understanding of the SGP (Student Growth Percentile) was a real winner. Introducing the ‘Growth and Achievement’ report within the Reading Dashboard, schools were able to learn how to predict the progress which children would make over time. Importantly, Star uses data from children around the UK which enables teachers to assess the progress children are making as compared with others of a similar and age and ability. This powerful feature is really valuable for tracking and monitoring interventions as well as reporting against different cohorts, such as pupil premium, for example.

These are just a few of the points which were covered on the day and which schools seemed to find particularly valuable for getting more out of Accelerated Reader using the data that naturally comes from Star Reading. If you’d like to explore how your school could be using Star Reading (which you automatically have if you subscribe to Accelerated Reader) to support wider school assessment objectives, you can request a free data review by contacting us at answers@renlearn.co.uk

Find out where the next Super AR User workshops will be held by visiting our events page.

PS. It’s also worth checking whether you have any outstanding training available to you, that you’ve already paid for – it’s quick and easy to find out here.


Margaret Allen
Strategic Education Manager

Margaret Allen is Strategic Education Manager for Primary schools at Renaissance Learning. She uses practical experience from her time teaching in primary classrooms to help teachers across the UK to get the most out of Accelerated Reader.

Monthly newsletter