By Jill Kane, Managing Editor
Each school day, hundreds of thousands of students in the U.S. and 70 other countries will assess their reading comprehension and reading-skill mastery goals using Renaissance Accelerated Reader® quizzes and practice activities. The assessments these students complete come from the more than 200,000 quizzes in our system—a number that grows by approximately 8,000 quizzes each year.
In this blog post, I will take you behind the scenes to learn more about how Renaissance develops quizzes that are psychometrically sound, valid, and reliable assessments of reading practice that confirm a student’s reading comprehension.
At the heart of Accelerated Reader is, of course, a book—actually, lots of them. Each year, Renaissance develops quizzes based on roughly 6,000 books that comprise an equal number of fiction and nonfiction titles.
We cast a wide net to help ensure quizzes are developed for popular, newer books, though these are not always the most current titles. Our sources include the following:
Past performance of books by specific authors
School-library publishers, which produce book series that focus on U.S. states, sports, animals, planets, and more
More than 350 librarian lists from across the U.S.
Customer requests submitted on Renaissance.com
Also, we develop quizzes for books published by today’s most popular authors, such as Jeff Kinney, author of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. Once we identify the list of books we’ll add to our library and we have them in hand, we are ready to begin the process of developing an Accelerated Reader quiz.
Before the Renaissance Content Development team can begin writing a quiz, each book must first be processed, which includes three phases:
Digitizing the pages. After Renaissance receives a book from the publisher, we enter its information into our content management system (CMS). This includes scanning the book, page by page, to make a digital copy.
Assessing the readability level. With the book now in our CMS, a separate system, ATOS—a readability formula developed specifically for Renaissance—provides the title’s readability level.
Determining the interest level. Next, with information we receive from the publisher, we determine the book’s interest level. In Accelerated Reader, we have four levels: lower grades, middle grades, middle grades-plus (which is the equivalent of junior high), and upper grades. (We also have a fifth level for our three-question pre-K, emergent reader quizzes.) The combination of readability and interest levels provides educators with a powerful tool for gauging whether the density of the text and the subject matter of the book are an appropriate match for a student.
With processing and assessment activities complete, the book is assigned to one of our 30 content developers, matching the book to the expertise and experience of the writer. Within a week’s time—sooner if the book is popular and customer demand is high—the writer will have read the book and written a “raw quiz” that is ready for a series of rigorous quality checks:
Reading the book again. Each book is read by a different content editor or content developer to provide a second perspective on the text.
Checking the quiz. Then, the second reader will test the quiz in the student program.
Evaluating the quiz’s quality. Next, a team of four to five editors evaluates each quiz by asking questions such as What was confusing? or What wording was unclear? Editors also look for factual errors—e.g., Was a character in the book misnamed in the quiz?—and ensure the quiz is not too easy or too difficult. Distracters are reviewed for plausibility. In addition, editors verify that quiz questions are dispersed evenly throughout the text to encourage students to read the entire book.
Validating the quiz. The final step is to ensure the quiz is psychometrically sound and represents a valid, reliable assessment of the student’s comprehension for his or her reading practice.
After approximately three weeks, the quiz is released into Accelerated Reader and ready to be accessed by students around the world.
We believe personalized reading practice through Accelerated Reader can help every student discover a lifelong love of reading with the guidance of an expert teacher. That is why we take great care and pride in developing quizzes for our customers and their students. And it is why we are committed to our purpose of accelerating learning for all.
We welcome your suggestions for new books to add to the Accelerated Reader quiz library. You can submit them anytime on our website.
Suggestions come to mind? Click the button below to suggest a quiz.
Jill Kane is currently managing editor of Wisconsin Rapids Content Development, which is responsible for Accelerated Reader, Vocabulary Practice, and Literacy Practice quiz production. Prior to her career at Renaissance, Jill taught Language Arts at the junior high, high school, and junior college levels.