Advantage Learning Gives You a Break

Almost everyday, it seems, a new student is admitted into our school. They transfer from other districts in other cities, states, even countries. They make new friends; adjust to the new scenery. But these children are also forced to start over in a curriculum that may prove worlds apart from the ones in which they were previously immersed. You, as the teacher, have to deal with all of these changes along with the ones caused by the addition of a student in the classroom. This can prove difficult, though. How can you find the time to discover the level on which the child is reading when you need to teach the rest of class on their levels and incorporate this child into the everyday dealings of this class? It’s an ongoing process that can sometimes start over once every other week while more and more students transfer into already overcrowded classrooms. What can you do?

You are not on your own. There are companies that can help. Several Teachnet readers give high marks for Advantage Learning Systems, which offers two programs that prove almost essential when placing students, either at the beginning of the year or when new students enter the classroom. One, called the Standardized Test for Assessment of Reading (S.T.A.R.), determines the students appropriate reading level by a computerized program. The other, Accelerated Reader (AR), is a computer-based program that tests reading comprehension.

S.T.A.R. gives an accurate assessment of a student’s reading level in the no more than ten minutes it takes them to complete the computer test. The actual program is loaded in less than ten minutes and then ready to go for your students to take the tests. Although only one student can take the test at a time, some teachers have quoted the test time as only three minutes, allowing many students to test in a short amount of time. When you begin, the questions are fairly simple. For example, fill in this blank:

The dog _______ through the yard.

barked ran dug fell

The questions become progressively more difficult; towards the end, you may question the meaning of some of these words yourself! And once the student has completed the test, he receives a printout showing calculations gauging his interest level for reading, grade-equivalecy for their reading level, etc. The students can test more than just twice a year, and the computer checks and keeps the record. You can easily track growth throughout the year and assess the reading level of new students without blinking an eye.

Accelerated Reader is a program that allows children to choose from one of over 11,000 cataloged books on their software. The titles range from kindergarten to high school reading levels, including favorites like Betsy Byars and Katherine Patterson. The students read at their own pace, whichever book they choose. After completing the book, they take the reading comprehension test designed to verify that the student has read the book. The questions, a nice selection including a wide range of difficulty levels, are graded, and the results are printed out. Students are given a number of points for each work they complete based on the number of points they received correct on their comprehension test and the difficulty level for the book. Many schools set up goals for their students in the form of Accelerated Reading Stores. The students use their points to buy items at the store (which are bought at discount or donated) at the end of the nine weeks, semester, or other specified amount of time. Prizes could include pencils, erasers, memo books, pretend money, plastic bracelets, puzzles to more expensive prizes, like a Walkman. Prices on prizes can range from 1 point (for pencils) to 40 points for a Walkman. At the end of the year, a pizza or ice cream party can be held for those who have read a minimum number of books and scored at least 80% on all of the tests, etc.

These two programs give teachers a much greater leniency when trying to individualize their students’ educations. You can acquire a demo or purchase one of these programs by contacting the company at:

Advantage Learning Systems
(800) 338-4204
Fax (715) 424-4242

Thanks to Teachnet Contributors for their input for this article:
Mary Pitner of Nashville, TN
Avis Breding abreding**btigate. com
Barb Wilkison wilkiso**citizen.infi. net