Education Endowment Foundation funds NFER to evaluate 'Accelerated Reader' in 200 English schools
Early research by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) indicated that Renaissance Learning’s Accelerated Reader, with its integrated use of online and software, raised the reading age of pupils by three months (low-income pupils by five months).
Now the EEF has invested £885,000 to further test the programme in 200 English primary schools with 18,000 Year 4 and 5 pupils. The National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) will manage the project to see whether the programme is effective at scale. It’s part of a raft of six new EFF research projects worth almost £4 million.
EEF chief executive Sir Kevan Collins commented: “Evidence is teachers’ greatest ally when it comes to deciding between different programmes or interventions. The most useful thing it can tell them is, if they replicate the intervention, will they get the same results in their classroom.
“We know that the six programmes we’ve announced new funding for today can all improve results for primary school pupils. But only by evaluating them on a larger scale will we be able to find out if they can be implemented successfully in many different schools.”
A love of reading
The purpose of Accelerated Reader is to inculcate in primary and early secondary children a love of reading. It does this by engaging them with books appropriate to their reading level and taking them on a carefully monitored journey of progression, supported by smart technology.
In effect this is a combination of Accelerated Reader software, dedicated reading time and ongoing professional development for staff. Schools can quickly screen pupils to find their reading level and match pupils to appropriate popular books, and then monitor results and show where, and what kind of, intervention is needed.
News of the grant was welcomed by Renaissance Learning's strategic education manager for primary, Margaret Allen. “For many years we have heard stories from schools, and seen in research from the National Literacy Trust, how Accelerated Reader can encourage children of all ages and abilities to read for pleasure," she commented. "So it is particularly gratifying that following the success of their original study, the EEF are investing in such a significant piece of research.
"At a time when assessment without levels is still such a hot topic, the in-school summative and day-to-day formative assessment offered by STAR Reading and Accelerated Reader become all the more valuable to teachers looking to track and monitor the progress of their pupils – and we hope that the trial will also show the importance of using this wealth of information for the benefit of all children.
"One of the common themes among the schools achieving the greatest results with Accelerated Reader is the way in which they implement the software, and the application of research-proven best practices is critical to success. That is why the face-to-face and online training and support we provide is so thorough, and our customer service is so highly regarded by the schools we work with.”
The other five EEF grants will also test projects that have been previously evaluated with positive results to find out if they work on a larger scale. They are:
- Catch Up Literacy, a structured one-to-one literacy intervention for learners aged 6-14;
- Grammar for Writing, delivered by the University of Exeter, teaches writing by helping pupils understand how linguistic structures convey meaning, rather than teaching grammatical rules in the abstract;
- Thinking, Doing, Talking Science, delivered by Science Oxford with Oxford Brookes University, is a programme that aims to make science lessons in primary schools more practical, creative and challenging by training teachers in a number of strategies to encourage pupils to use higher order thinking skills;
- Affordable Primary Tuition, delivered by Tutor Trust, will test the impact of maths tuition in primary schools for struggling Year 6 pupils;
- Read Write Inc. Phonics and Fresh Start, delivered by Queen’s University Belfast and Ruth Miskin Training, will test the impact of the two systematic phonics based literacy programmes.
The EEF will invest almost £4m to independently evaluate these six projects on a large scale in 920 primary schools involving 48,670 pupils across England. The results will be used to inform the EEF’s Teaching and Learning Toolkit, a summary of educational research.