Latest success stories from Renaissance Learning

A New Strategy To Get Students’ Reading Back On Track

The Long Eaton School, Derbyshire

The Long Eaton School have been successfully utilising Accelerated Reader and Star Reading since 2013. In August 2020, new Qualified Teacher Librarian Althea Briers joined the school when engaging students with reading for pleasure and developing reading proficiency was more crucial than ever.

Due to school part-closures resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, Althea and her colleagues had the challenging task of refamilalrising and reintegrating students with a library system that makes reading accessible and part of students daily lives once again. 

Althea writes:

Introducing a new reading culture to a new school during a global pandemic

If students stick to the programme, it’s incredible for them. We’re hoping to continue with AR as we have joined a new Academy, and I am waiting to find out about budget allocation.

In the past, students came to the library once a week. They would choose new library books and do AR quizzing on computers. They also did library-based lessons. After the summer holidays, we did the Star Tests. Students were coming out of lockdown. The Star Test process was difficult to organise as the computer rooms had to be cleaned down and sanitised after each class had tested. But, once all students were back in the classroom, I gave them their reading ages, and they started reading. I’m ‘old school’. I note each student’s name and grade on a card because I’m dealing with so many children, and I need to know what level they are on and how they’re progressing. I note any comments that might help me match books to the student’s interests. This helps me understand their unique needs and requirements; for example, if a student is interested in art, I can find books related to art to encourage them to read.

The new normal

“I’ve found that if students quiz within two days of reading their book, the results are almost always better.”

In the 20/21 academic year, our year groups are in bubbles, so we had Mondays and Wednesdays set aside for AR quizzing and changing library books for Year sevens and eights. I would prepare a library book box with approximately 30 books at different levels for each class. Once the English teacher has settled the students in the classroom, the students would have time to choose from the library book box or come down to the library in small groups to either quiz or choose new library books. Currently, the library computer section is being used for RESET, and this area can become quite noisy. I’ve found that if students quiz within two days of reading their book, the results are almost always better. We plan to get back into a routine of weekly Library lessons after the summer holidays.

After the Star Tests, some students were upset about their AR reading level as some of them had dropped to lower levels. This was mainly because they had not been reading during the lockdown.

I have labelled and colour-coded some of the purple and green bookshelves, which helps the weaker students find their books quicker. It didn’t take that long to set up.

Every Tuesday, I look at who has done a quiz in the previous week. Anyone with 100% gets a positive point which I log on their class charts. I then send English teachers and Head of Year a list of students who have done well in their quizzing. The Head of Year sometimes lists the AR achievements in the weekly notices. The Head of Year deals with student discipline. If a student’s recent poor quiz scores match their current behaviour, staff can look into reasons affecting their poor behaviour. Alternatively, they can refer to positive quiz scores to encourage students to get back on track, focus and improve their behaviour.

In December, I sent a diagnostic report to all English teachers. Teachers and teaching assistants also have access to logins to see students reading scores whenever they need. If a teacher discovers a student in need of intervention, they can work with the librarian and find appropriate books for them. Pastoral and SEN staff also use the valuable data from Star assessments to support students too.

Connecting staff and students


Accelerated Reader helps to start conversations between the English teacher, student and librarian. If a student takes a thick book that’s not at their reading level, reading can become a resentful activity for them. With the information from AR and Star Reading reports, you can offer a book within their level, which they can quiz on easily. You can instantly see the positive impact a book can have on student’s confidence and reading engagement at the right level of ability. The result is that they want to read more and improve their reading level. 

“In my experience, using Accelerated Reader in previous schools has resulted in students producing excellent reading development results.”

In my experience, using Accelerated Reader in previous schools has resulted in students producing excellent reading development results. The majority of students wanted more autonomy over their reading. They liked to go into their account, see what they’ve read and got excited to find out what they could read next. In addition, the strengthened relationship with English teachers and librarians to collaborate on student progress and assessment is equally astonishing. I believe the personal relationship between staff and librarian is crucial to solid student cross-curricular growth.

To get a book in the hands of students is a success. We encourage students to read for 20 minutes every day. However, right now, due to the lockdown, many students lack fundamental reading proficiency and motivation. Therefore we have prioritised daily reading and AR quizzing to get students back on track.

Previous experiences

In previous schools I’ve worked in that also utilised Star Reading, students were comfortable carrying out Star Tests. On average, it took them 20 minutes to complete the assessment. At The Long Eaton School, we carried out a Star Test for all user students before Christmas 2020. We hope to carry out one before the end of the 20/21 academic year to see how much reading has improved. Additionally, we’re also introducing a summer school this year. New Year seven students will come into school during part of the summer holiday and familiarise themselves with the library, AR, and our school’s ethos of regular reading.

In my experience, if you get your teeth stuck into Accelerated Reader and Star Reading, it works well. The levels in AR work like bricks in a wall. You’ve got to build your foundation on purple bricks (low level) to get to the green bricks (high level), moving steadily upwards, creating a solid structure of which your reading is supported.

“One day, when they find the right book that they just can’t put down because they’re engrossed but more importantly because it’s accessible.”

I know a year eight student who liked reading thicker books outside of her reading level in class, so that she did not show her actual reading level. She was a bit shy to read thin, purple books in class. When the student passed the book at her level, her face said it all. She was elated, and you could see that achieving a high quiz score meant everything to her. Eventually, she started listening to what I was saying about not being ashamed to read books at the right level in school. One day, when they find the right book that they just can’t put down because they’re engrossed but more importantly, because it’s accessible. When this happens, a light bulb goes off, and they’re hooked.

Removing the reading stigma

I want the majority of students to be comfortable with reading and to enjoy reading. I don’t want any student to perceive reading as a chore or a school task, but instead, it becomes something they want to do. I want them to pull the book out of their bag and enjoy reading; these are the people who will grow up and become adults so they can read to the next generation of children. I want to make the library and reading an integral part of The Long Eaton Schools ethos and culture.

Other voices

“AR is a powerful and motivational tool that has unfortunately been restricted during the lockdown.” – Teacher.

“I find the programme easy to work with – it’s handy to find your way around.” – Student.

“It has helped me find new books because I used to only read David Walliams, but because of Accelerated Reader, I now read books by other authors and love them.” – Student.

The numbers don’t lie!

Product usage stats:

  • 3,787 Accelerated Reader quizzes carried out from Sep-19 – Feb-21*
  • 1,133 Star Reading assessments carried out from Sep-19 – Feb-21an increased rate of 95%*
  • Average ZPD level from Sep-19 – Feb-21– an average of 43 – an average increase of 11%*
  • Average Accelerated Reader Quiz Percentage Correct of 81% carried out from Sep-19 – Feb-21.
  • Average Accelerated Reader Reading Level carried out from Sep-19 – Feb-21– an average of 72 – an average increase of 5%*
  • Average Star Reading Scaled Score carried out from Sep-19 – Feb-21– an average of 33 – an average increase of 12%*
  • The average time per Star Reading test carried out from 19/20 – 20/21 is 16 Minutes 49 Seconds*

*2020 product usage stats will be distorted due to school closures in March 2020, resulting in infrequent quizzing/testing

External stats (DfE):

  • The Long Eaton School saw an increase in Progress 8 Score from 2017 – 2018, an increase of over + 85%, forecasting a continued increase of + 22.06% by 2021*
  • The Long Eaton School saw an increase in Progress 8 Score for disadvantaged pupils from 2017 – 2018, an increase of over + 5%, forecasting a continued increase of + 14.15% by 2021*
  • The Long Eaton School performs better than 48% of other secondary schools in the local authority of Derbyshire based on Progress 8 Score.

*All forecasts are sourced from DfE data and calculated before school closures in March 2020

Ofsted – December 2015 (Two years after subscription with AR/SR began) – Good

“The school’s work to improve the outcomes of the most-able pupils is effective. The progress of this group of pupils last year and their progress currently show a marked improvement compared with that in previous years. Leaders keep the progress of this group high on teachers’ priorities by monitoring pupils’ progress rigorously and devising bespoke intervention strategies.”

To find out more about how your school can utilise Accelerated Reader and Star Reading, click here.

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