Using Accelerated Reader across our whole trust
St Martin's Multi-Academy Trust, Bilston
Difficulties we’ve encountered
Creating engaged readers is difficult obstacle for all schools across the country right now – pupils are spending more time on digital devices, so trying to replace screen time with hard-copy books is not an easy battle. This is especially the case across our trust: because our schools are in high-deprivation areas, most of our pupils don’t have access to reading resources from home and so their only exposure to books and time to read is during the school day.
At one of our schools, Grove Primary Academy, over two-thirds of the pupils speak English as an additional language, and this can make it even harder to engage students with reading. Over the years, we’ve found that reading engagement and progress scores tend to be around the UK average in KS1, but from KS1 to KS2, progress measures aren’t where we want them to be. Our KS2 SATs results are a weak area across all three of our schools, but this isn’t just due to reading comprehension: it’s other fundamental areas of reading like pace.
In 2018, St Martin’s CE Primary School had a massive increase in reading results, which was great. But then in 2019 the amount of words KS2 pupils had to read as part of the national assessment criteria was a lot higher. It’s very hard to assess our progress when the year-on-year criteria fluctuates.
Using Accelerated Reader against these obstacles
Despite all the obstacles we’ve encountered, our nurturing and teaching of reading has never dropped off and Accelerated Reader (AR) has definitely helped with both reading for pleasure and language acquisition. Most noticeably, AR has complemented the library environment in each school, making them more accessible with clearly labelled book-level areas and individual labels highlighting each book’s book level. AR allows us to provide pupils with appropriate texts and books: if texts are too difficult, pupils will become disengaged from the off. Our pupils are no longer wondering whether a book is too easy or too hard for them, but if pupils read at the appropriate level, we know that they can build up their vocabulary as well as improving their comprehension skills.
Excellent reading practice means excellent results
At St Martin’s, there is 15-20 minutes of AR time at the start of every day. We’d love them to have up to half an hour every day, but the schedule across all our schools is so busy!
We believe that to ensure reading development remains consistent, practice needs to remain effective and efficient. The valuable data provided by the various reports within AR allow teachers to give out tasks and activities that are bespoke to each pupils’ individual learning needs, whereas previously, these were generic and not necessarily appropriate to every pupil’s current level of learning. At the same time, we know that teachers and TAs know their pupils best, and can determine what’s appropriate for each pupil. The need for intervention is highlighted within the Diagnostic Report, but the reasons behind it may not be so clear, so it’s vital to know pupils and talk to them. They could be struggling, or maybe they’re just reading a particularly long book so haven’t quizzed in a little while, or they were having an off day when they took their last AR quiz.
“Accelerated Reader has definitely helped with both reading for pleasure and language acquisition.”
Monitoring and tracking positive change
We’ve kept an eye on the average quiz scores for all schools across the trust to see how we’re progressing. At the end of the last academic year, the average quiz score was across the trust was 71% correct, but by the end of Autumn term this year, we had got to 77.5% – a big improvement! More recently, the trust has seen some percentages go up over 80%, which is exactly where we want all schools to be. The number of words read has also massively increased: some pupils have doubled their average! This would have been impossible without their new culture of reading that AR has brought about.
We’re able to monitor and analyse all of this reading data thanks to not only AR, but Star Reading assessments too. We recently noticed that some children weren’t sitting their assessments correctly: one child wasn’t making her expected progress, but when a teacher looked at the data, they could see that this child had only taken eight minutes to complete their last Star Reading test: way below the expected 20 minutes. Across the trust, we’re on the lookout for pupils who don’t take long enough to complete a test! Ensuring that data is as accurate as possible can only be achieved when Star Reading tests are taken supervised, and when a teacher can check the data to spot issues like this.
The value of data and reporting for a multi-academy trust
Progress tracking is important for St Martin’s Trust as, recently, we’ve recognised the need to challenge our most able pupils. The Star Reading data shows Student Growth Percentiles (SGP) to see how each pupil’s progress compares to other pupils with similar ages and ability, both across our trust and nationally. The SGPs have helped us identify that our most able pupils, despite their reading age being so high, were not progressing enough compared to others of the same age across the country. This is a good reminder that sometimes we can be so focused on getting pupils from EAL/PP demographics to where they need to be, it can sometimes result in the progress of the most able pupils not being monitored sufficiently.
“The need for intervention is highlighted within the Diagnostic Report, but the reasons behind it may not be so clear, so it’s vital to know pupils and talk to them.”
The other advantage of SGPs is for students at the other end of the spectrum: previously, it was easy to get downhearted about pupils who aren’t where they should be, but the SGPs let us see progress being made even where reading levels are low.
I’ve only recently discovered the power of the Instructional Planning Report, which provides a list of recommended skills for class or group instruction based on the most recent assessment results. In a bid to push progress within English lessons, I’ve shared this report with all our teachers, so as they can better understand not only how their pupils are progressing with reading, but also what they need to be focusing on next. This means our staff can use the rich data from Star Assessments and AR even more efficiently! Even from Years 2 and 3, the Instructional Planning Report can help us make sure that pupils are being kept on track.
We’ve also recently utilised the KS2 SATs Performance Report from Star Reading which shows teachers which pupils are on track to pass their Year 6 SATs reading exam.
Accelerated Reader – now part of the furniture
For us, the most significant change that we’ve seen since implementing AR is the new culture of reading: genuinely, it is! As a trust, we’ve invested a lot of time and money in getting the necessary resources for effective reading development. AR is part of this, and lets us create a culture of reading and incentivise pupils to read for pleasure. A little bit of a healthy competition goes a long way throughout all of our schools, and with everyone now eager to get the best possible score in their next AR quiz, they’re actually excited about reading! For some of our pupils, who really struggle with reading, we never thought we’d see this.
“Because of AR and Star, we’re able to accurately track the progress that each pupil is making with reading comprehension.”
Accelerated Reader has become part of every student’s everyday routine across all three of our schools, and we’ve found that as pupils come up through school they get more and more understanding of the importance of reading. Hopefully, we’ll see a continued increase in reading engagement that will reflect in their results. Because of AR and Star, we’re able to accurately track the progress that each pupil is making with reading comprehension and consequently, offer bespoke intervention and learning strategies where needed, based on reliable data, across our multi-academy trust.
|Assessment, EAL, Intervention, Library Use, Multi-Academy Trust, Pupil Premium, Reading Comprehension, Reading Culture, Reading for Pleasure, SATs