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What a difference a day makes!  I have learned so much about AR management from you 
helpful folks as well as staff in my district that my head is swimming.

Before I get to the HIT I want to clarify that in the process of requesting new 
information, it was not my intent to criticize the use of AR in my district or 
anywhere else. I am only trying to learn how it fits into the big picture.  In an 
effort to frame my questions in a way that made sense, I oversimplified some of the 
facts, which only served to highlight how little I understood about AR.  

AR does not drive collection development at all in our libraries, nor does it take 
a great deal of anyone's time.  Nor is the cost prohibitive relative to other 
resources we purchase.   It is just one of many resources we could make better use 
of, especially if we add it to the long list of strategies and resources we are 
working towards providing training for. I think we, as a district, are fortunate 
that teachers can utilize this as they see fit rather than feel pressured to 
implement it.  

Here are some of the helpful comments I received:

1)  What I have been trying to do is have an AR trainer come to train my staff, 
because we misuse it as well. My principal is willing, but we can't ever seem to 
get a date picked.  AR will send trainers to you.  It sounds like that may be a bit 
pricey for you.  There might be some teacher or media specialist in your area who 
has taken training and can do an in-service for your teachers.  How do the teachers 
feel about it?  If they aren't using it, you might want to consider other options.  
Our primary teachers just had an in-service about a product called Reader's 
Toolkit.  It is more of a group activity, but it gets the students to do some 
critical thinking, make connections and predictions, and so on.  We really like it. 

2) I don't see the problem.  This is the way we use at our high school.  It has 
slowly but steadily caught on and we have tripled our circulation in the past 5 
years.  If it ain't broke why mess with it, in my humble opinion.  I espeically 
don't like getting principals involved.  That has killed it at our elementary where 
it was starting to build until the new princicpal got involved.

3) Up until this year the principal chaired an AR committee (composed of a reading 
teacher, 3 classroom teachers and the librarian).
Now the supervisor of the elementary reading department is in charge of AR.  This 
year we also switched from purchasing individual tests to
buying a district wide license that lets us access all of the AR tests that 
Renaissance Learning has.  I believe this runs $3.00 or $4.00 per
student that the district plans to use the program.  It costs more than the $300 
annual licensing fee we paid before, but we don't have to keep
buying tests and it means that the students have an enormous range of books 
available to them. I don't get complaints any more that I don't
have AR tests for the books they want to read or that there are insufficient tests 
at a particular reading level.  The parents and students are much happier. The 
students just go to our district web page to link to the RenLearn website and can 
take tests from home or just check to see if a book is an AR book and what its 
reading level and point value is.    I hope this helps.

4)  We use Reading Counts in our school, but I think the principle is the same.  RC 
or AR can be used in many ways, but we have chosen to use it as a voluntary 
program, which sounds like what you are doing.  I administer the program through 
the library, and am in charge of it.  Students here can read books independently, 
and choose to take quizzes on them.  The computers collate the points, and we offer 
prizes at various point levels to encourage student use.  We fund the entire 
program, quizzes, prizes, some books, and sometimes even computers, with our 
boxtops money.  The program doesn't drive my book purchases, but it does impact my 
weeding, as I am reluctant to throw away books that have quizzes in the program.  
Teachers are free to incorporate the program into their classroom.  Some do, some 
don't.  The system seems to work for us.  Hope this helps,

5)  We have used AR in Gr. 2-5 for several years, and 2-7 the last 2 years.  We are 
a very small rural district (1 bldg., 450 students k-12). As the LMS I do the 
administration of AR.  Yes, using AR will definitely impact circ. and readership.  
And, we all know that the more students read, the better they become at reading.  
As with any program, there are drawbacks and advantages.

At this point I am beginning to weed some books that I have AR quizzes for.  The 
ultimate driving force is whether or not the books are being read.  With over 4000 
quizzes, I no longer worry about having enough AR books for our students.  Simply 
checking circ and checking usage of the quizzes will quickly tell whether or not a 
book should be kept.  For instance, I'll keep Snow Treasure because it circulates 
and is being quizzed.  Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series will go because the kids do 
not read them and haven't for about 8-10 years.

My collection development approach is to purchase materials according to positive 
reviews, to support the curriculum, and to reflect the interests of our students.  
Then, after making my purchasing decision, I look at which books have an AR quiz 
and purchase quizzes for those. 
Because there are now so many quizzes available I find that I can purchase quizzes 
for over 90% of the fiction I purchase, and then add more quizzes the following 
year for things that were so recently published that no quiz was available.  I also 
find I can purchase plenty of non-fiction quizzes for new books as well.

I don't seem to spend a terrific amount of time on AR.  It's just one more thing 
that I do to get students reading.  Perhaps the program could be better utilized, 
but our students don't seem to have a problem in adjusting in different uses of the 
program from grade to grade.  After all each teacher is unique and has his or her 
own teaching style.  You might want to check into the training that Renaissance 
Learning offers.

6) AR was not designed to be used as a guide to purchase books in the library.  It 
was also not designed to be used as a grade.  AR is a motivational tool.  Plan and 
simple.  I also agree that it would be very beneficial if your school had one set 
of rules and/or requirements to using AR.  This helps the students and parents know 
what to expect.  To have each teacher make their own can lead to confusion and also 
make a huge headache for the person in charge of AR.

I am in charge of the AR program in our highschool (and RC at the K-8 level).  We 
treat AR very simple.  At the high school, all students have a goal of 25 points 
per nine-weeks.  There is no limit on what books they can read, nor do the 
teacher's care about reading level ect.  All that is required is 25 points.  Over 
half of the students will get all of their points after reading just two books.  If 
they have their 25 points, they are free to read anything else they want during 
their silent-sustained reading such as magazines, newspapers, books from home, even 
textbook chapters.  They will get extra points from their english teachers if they 
go over their 25 points but most students don't do this.  They would rather have 
the freedom to read and not worry about taking a test later on.

At the middle school level, the students there have a requirement to pass 3 Reading 
Counts test each nine-weeks.  However, I think they are going to go with points 
like at the high school next year.  (they are currently talking about 15 points per 

At the elementary level, the students have to pass a certain number of test 
according to their grade.  Grades 1-3 have a goal of 25 test per SEMESTER (about 12 
a nine-weeks).  Grades 4-5 have a goal of 5 a nine-weeks.   There are even some 
teachers who do not like Reading Counts and so do not push it.  They would rather 
have book reports, literacy circles, and reading logs.  For those teachers, they 
opt out of the program and we really don't worry too much about them.  (on a side 
note, it seems to me that my biggest readers for the library come from the teachers 
who use literacy circles).

I find that it usually doesn't take up that much time to maintain the AR or RC 
program in all of the libraries (I am the only certified librarian for the 5 
schools).  I probably spend a total of an hour a week on running all of these 
programs.  Some weeks, more and some weeks, a lot less.

If I have a book that needs to be weeded and it has an AR or RC test, I still weed 
the book.  When I purchase new books, I try to buy the test along with the books.  
I do this because I never want to limit a student from reading a book just because 
it doesn't have a test.  I have a collection development policy that I follow and 
there is no mention of AR or RC anywhere on it.

Anyway, I hope this helps.  It sure works for us
7) My school district had 1 person in charge of the program. This is the way AR 
wants it. I have been to 2 national conferences of theirs--one in Nashville and the 
other in Las Vegas.
One person administers the program. The computer lab and classrooms are testing 
facilities. The library did not put the program on. I did well to stay up with the 
book shelving. If this is going to be done, it needs to be uniform. My school had a 
competition for points, but that's not the way to do it. Each teacher is to set 
goals with each of her/his students and sign the reading log as they finish books 
and meet their reading goals. There is management software for the library called 
AR Book Guide. You can print reading lists and manage your books and quizzes. There 
is even software that will evaluate your collection and tell you which books you 
have that need tests, which tests need books, etc. If your district is going to do 
AR, do not weed those books. If they are in need of weeding, replace the copies. 
Those tests are expensive. AR drove my entire K-8 collection. The HS attempted it, 
but quickly abandoned the program.
8) We use AR District wide- 28 buildings. It's gets heavy use at Elementary, 
moderate use at MS, and very little at HS. This is a District supported program AR 
and STAR  (tool for reading level)- they purchase upgrades, our tech department 
keeps it running, teachers have had training, and we contract with Advantage 
Learning for Help support.

You are correct-  you don't want to be in charge. At our school the PTA provides 
funding for tests, I have a teacher that "loves" AR and she
does the ordering of tests. I load the tests into the Data base, but that's about 
it.  I know the program well, but AR would take too much
time for me. I spend my energy "training" teachers and then they are on there own.

Our Principal is a big supporter of AR. If this weren't the case I could see the 
program being run differently in each classroom. So we do have
school wide standards and district wide standards.

For some reason AR is a very emotional issue and they are attached to it like glue. 
Talking about "change" might be more than one could bear.  AR
does drive many of our purchasing decisions, but not exclusively- if I need 
something that's not AR then we purchase. I like it because- 1. I
do very little in keeping it going and 2. the PTA likes spending money on AR books.
9) Our school has people other than myself in charge of AR.  At my campus, it is a 
Language Arts teacher.  I know the library aides on the elementary campuses are in 
charge of it there.  I don't know about consistency being a problem.  The whole 
point of AR is to be a reading incentive.  I really don't think it matters how the 
teachers chose to use that.  It actually sounds like you have a better program than 
we do, since the students here are forced to read AR books on certain levels.  I 
would think a situation like yours would be better because it sounds as if the 
teachers are using it in a way that best serves their class.

The first years we had it, the kids were excited, but after 8 years, they grew sick 
of it. The only ones who are still excited about it are the K-4 kids. 
10) Our school has people other than myself in charge of AR.  At my campus, it is a 
Language Arts teacher.  I know the library aides on the elementary campuses are in 
charge of it there.  I don't know about consistency being a problem.  The whole 
point of AR is to be a reading incentive.  I really don't think it matters how the 
teachers chose to use that.  It actually sounds like you have a better program than 
we do, since the students here are forced to read AR books on certain levels.  I 
would think a situation like yours would be better because it sounds as if the 
teachers are using it in a way that best serves their class.
11) I've had lots of experience with AR as a language arts teacher (and with STAR 
testing). Before we purchased the tests. Now they're all online.  This may be 
something to check into. The format looks a little different, but it still 
basically works the same. They say there SHOULD be someone in charge to administer 
it, but any competent teacher can add students, create classes and run reports 
within the system. Someone just has to set up the privileges. The more teachers 
have, the less you will have to deal with. Currently at my campus, a JH, there is 
one ESL teacher who wants to use it. She has her own username/password and has
access to it on her computer. It's also set up on 6 student computers for testing. 
I will have to walk her through it, but it didn't take me long to see how the 
online version works.

Thank you!
Susan Waring
District Librarian
Spencer Van Etten Central Schools
607-589-7140 ext 2229

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