March 12, 2021
March is National Reading Month. At Renaissance, we’re celebrating student literacy with the release of the new 2021 edition of our What Kids Are Reading report. We’re also marking the 35th anniversary of Accelerated Reader. In this blog, you’ll learn more about these topics, as well as recent product enhancements to support student reading engagement. If you haven’t already, we invite you to bookmark our Product Updates Blog for new information and resources throughout the year.
Fostering a love of reading for 35 years
It all started in the mid-1980s, with our founder Judi Paul’s drive to motivate her children to read during the summer months. Sitting in her basement in Port Edwards, Wisconsin, Judi created a list of classic novels, along with a points system based on each book’s difficulty and length. To ensure her children actually read the books, she wrote multiple-choice questions for each one—and challenged her kids to show what they’d learned through their reading.
With this simple and inspiring idea, Judi sparked what would become the most meaningful piece of educational technology that’s still in use today. Thirty-five years later, Accelerated Reader has helped millions of students to find engaging books and to discover a lifelong love of reading.
How has Accelerated Reader endured over time? The answer is in the simplicity of motivating kids and creating a classroom culture of reading. While Accelerated Reader was created on a small scale initially, it now has over 220,000 quizzes on a wide range of fiction and nonfiction titles—and this number continues to grow.
We have rigorous standards for keeping AR current, and we make sure that new titles are continuously added so that students’ enthusiasm for reading stays high. Our team has even written quizzes that have been available the day after a new book is released. With an eye for accommodating flexibility in learning environments, we’ve also adapted Accelerated Reader so that kids can quiz from anywhere—in the school building or at home—to help ensure continuous reading and learning.
Learn more: See highlights from 35 years of Accelerated Reader. Explore the making of an AR quiz. Get best practices for quizzing at home in AR. Discover strategies for recognizing your students’ reading accomplishments.
Supporting daily reading during the pandemic
COVID-19 not only disrupted familiar classroom routines and daily schedules, but also required the temporary closure of school and public libraries. We recognize the tremendous efforts of teachers and librarians over the past 12 months to get books into kids’ hands, ranging from bookmobiles and book drop-offs to the quick adoption of eBooks and digital reading.
At Renaissance, we’ve supported these efforts with our myON digital reading platform, which provides students with 24/7 access to thousands of engaging titles. As mentioned earlier, we also enabled districts to allow their students to quiz from home in Accelerated Reader. And using myON and Accelerated Reader together ensures that students have anytime, anywhere access to high-quality texts and the ability to quiz on these titles right away.
We’ve made important updates over the last year to make this connection even tighter. Students can now see myON book suggestions in Accelerated Reader, and they can launch an Accelerated Reader quiz within myON at the click of a button. myON has also been optimized to accommodate lower bandwidth internet access, ensuring greater equity and access for all students.
Learn more: Get insights on using AR and myON together. Explore the low-bandwidth reading option in myON. Access reading challenge ideas, student certificates, and more in our myON Spring Resources. Get an expert’s tips for promoting deeper student engagement with digital texts.
New read-aloud support in Freckle ELA
Students are at varying reading levels, regardless of their grade placement. To accommodate students who need additional support while reading, the Freckle ELA program has added a read-aloud feature to its entire article library. This feature can be turned on or off for each student in a class.
In addition, the program’s ELA Standards Page has been updated to make creating standards-informed exercises quick and easy for educators. As shown in the example below, teachers now see all of the standards for the selected grade level, organized by domain—in this case, Reading Information, Reading Literature, Writing, and Language. When teachers select a standard, a new Explore Topic Page helps them to quickly create a relevant Article or Skills Practice assignment for their students.
Tracking literacy development with Star CBM
With students engaging in reading practice both in and out of school, you’ll want to know how it’s impacting their achievement. Renaissance provides an array of assessment tools to measure student performance and growth and to report the results from the district level down to the student level.
The new Star CBM Reading includes six different measure types that educators administer to students in a 1-to-1 setting, either in-person or remotely. Passage Oral Reading measures are available for grades 1–6 and include the option to assess using nonfiction passages for students in grades 4–6.
Included with Star CBM Reading are two Rapid Automatic Naming (RAN) measures for colors and objects. RAN measures are commonly used to assist in the early identification of children who are at risk for reading difficulties—including dyslexia—to provide educators with additional insight into their development.
Star CBM measures are also great opportunities to hear students read aloud, celebrate their successes, and track progress. While administering a measure, you can use the note-taking field to write your observations of student progress and patterns of error. Additionally, you now have the option to record the audio of a student verbally responding to a Star CBM measure when using the Online or Mixed Format. Listening to these audio recordings gives educators, students, and/or parents a way to understand how reading has improved over time.
Later this spring, school and district leaders will have access to a Star CBM Data Insights Dashboard. This new tool will help administrators to track reading performance across the classrooms that are using Star CBM. It will also help to answer essential questions to keep reading growth on track.
Learn more: Explore the new audio recording feature and nonfiction reading passages in Star CBM. Discover how educators can use Star CBM to support distance and hybrid learning. See how Star CBM works with the computer-adaptive Star Assessments to provide two perspectives on student performance.
Strengthening literacy skills in both English and Spanish
To meet the needs of bilingual, dual-language, and immersion programs, we’ve made a number of recent enhancements to the Spanish versions of our computer-adaptive Star Assessments. We also recognize the importance of helping emergent bilingual students to make connections between reading skills in the English and Spanish languages.
We’re pleased to announce that the Instructional Planning Reports in the Star Spanish assessments now flag transferable skills, which are skills that can be transferred from one language to another. When educators understand transferable and non-transferable skills, they can strengthen and build upon the reading skills their students already know and help them to develop new skills in both English and Spanish.
Learn more: See where to find transferable skills on your Star reports. Learn about Focus Skills in Spanish in Star Assessments. Explore 6 common myths about emergent bilinguals—and what these myths get wrong.
Seeing performance against literacy standards
With Schoolzilla, district and school leaders can see the progress students make in literacy throughout the year. With the recent enhancement in support of standards-level data, educators can gain insights into how their students perform against specific literacy standards. Schoolzilla enables you to drill down to see standards-level data and then filter to compare the performance of different groups of students:
Having this granular view will help inform classroom instruction, as well as the overall curricular adjustments that might be needed across the district or in specific buildings, grade levels, or with groups of students.
Learn more: Explore the new standards-level analysis in Schoolzilla. Get an expert’s tips for creating an effective data culture in the COVID-19 era. View 8 essential questions to ask about any metric.
What kids are reading…in your state
The new 2021 edition of What Kids Are Reading shows you the most popular print and digital titles at every grade level. It also provides research-based insights on how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted students’ reading habits—including how much they’re reading, whether they’re choosing easier or more difficult books, and how well they’re comprehending what they read.
After you download the report, be sure to take advantage of the online reporting tools. You can see the most popular books at each grade level in your state, and you can click the “Create your own report” button to further filter the results by reading level, interest level, student gender, fiction/nonfiction, English/Spanish, and more. We also invite you to explore the history of What Kids Are Reading, which includes key insights on reading growth and student motivation.
Looking back—and looking ahead
Over the past thirty-five years, Renaissance’s mission has been to accelerate learning for all. New assessments, instructional tools, and learning data have made Renaissance a partner that educators have come to rely on.
As we embark on our next thirty-five years, Renaissance will continue to innovate and deliver additional ways for educational technology, data analytics, and professional learning to support you as you work to help every student discover a lifelong love of reading.