To generalize the results a passing population would need to be studied as well as a larger group over a longer period. One limitation that may have been missing from the study's own assessment of limitations is that the penalization of attending summer school tends to incite improvement in students, as this is seen as their last chance to have an opportunity to move forward with their own classmates and friends the following year. Due to the age of the students, (first graders) this may be a collaborative cause or impetus for motivation and therefore improvement. One can also postulate that the rote nature of the pre-reading skills that are needed for success at this level, lend themselves well to the basic low-level comprehension that is broken down for the student with AR. In other words the "scientific" success of the program may be limited only to those readers who need help learning the rudimentary skills of reading and not so much for those who have mastered these skills and simply have no desire to read, although some argue that the reward system intrinsic to AR will likely increase reading desire and outside reading behavior, this was not discussed or analyzed in this particular study. The insight of this work is consistent with other scientific studies regarding AR, i.e. that it is most effective with emergent readers and below grade level readers when applied in conjunction with regular reading curriculum and by trained staff.
Cuddeback & Ceprano also point out several limitations or concerns about the program, extrinsic reward, low-level comprehension of material (Cuddeback & Ceprano, 2002, p. 89) and lastly one that is brought out by other reading experts non-phonemic instruction. (Santi, Menchetti & Edwards, 2004, p. 189) Others suggest that the lasting effects of AR use have not been conclusively studied, in what the NCLB legislations would consider a "scientific" manner. ("Accelerated Reader: Lasting Effects," 2003, p. 4) Challenges to AR have been based upon several of the above points but most researchers conclude that the program is useful when applied correctly as a supplement to traditional reading curriculum, but not as a stand alone reading program, despite its relatively high cost, which for many low SES schools is prohibitive. (Krashen, 2004, p. 444) Traditional reading programs have also been challenged as unable to respond effectively to differing learning skills, i.e. those acquired through interactive electronic learning systems and pass time activities which move quickly and are peppered with interesting images and actions.
One comparative research study that has raised as many questions as it has answered concluded that AR does not seem to make lifelong readers, as per a comparative results from several other research studies.
A when the Accelerated Reader program is used in elementary school it does not result in middle school students who read more relative to those who did not use it. In fact, students who did not have AR in elementary school in these two districts are reading more relative to their AR-exposed peers. (Pavonetti, Brimmer & Cipielewski, 2002, p. 300)
In fact, according to the authors the program can be detrimental to long-term reading patterns, the results are mostly conjecture, as they simply found that among this relatively small group those who read at higher rates were less likely to have been exposed to AR in early grades.
Statement of Problem:
Some educators point out that the reason for limited success of AR is associated with its offer of only extrinsic reward, which challenges the need of the individual student to develop intrinsic motivation for learning during formative years. In other words if the student does not learn self-motivation at an early age through an academic need and the early childhood desire for success they may never do so. According to some educators over utilizing programs such as AR, especially as stand alone programs may be an insurmountable error, as children then never seek learning through self-motivation and instead seek external gratification. (Sideridis, Mouzaki, Simos & Protopapas, 2006, p.159) Some even argue that teaching children through extrinsic rewards may create a missed opportunity in the development of intrinsic desire to learn. It must also be noted that this complaint has been waged against systems as inherent as grading, or reward systems such as those often created by local public library systems and business partnerships that give students pizzas or toys as a reward for reading behavior. Though others argue that these programs are extremely motivational and are helping expose children to materials they would likely never have been motivated to read before, and can be instrumental in improvement.
Some researchers urge the use of direct instruction, with open time for discussion and questions from the student, for the improvement of reading in children with behavioral problems, rather than focusing intervention on AR or other non-personal reading programs. Barton-Arwood, Wehby & Falk in fact do not recommend the tool (AR) as it would seem to have the propensity to be unsuccessful or only marginally successful in cases where real disabilities, rather than simple lack of desire or lack of basic skills holds up a reader. (Barton-Arwood, Wehby & Falk, 2005, p.7) Though others would likely argue that the use of AR is intrinsic to finding these students, as those who are unsuccessful with it or who consistently score low on the continual assessment aspect may have other problems that need to be addressed that would not have been recognized otherwise. (Cuddeback & Ceprano, 2002, p. 89)
Yet, another investigator compared the use of AR with the use of multimedia book reviews (utilizing another computer-based reading tool, Hypercard) and a secondary qualitative test to measure the student attitude toward reading. What the researcher found was that the multi-media book review method significantly improved student's attitudes about reading, while AR with its extrinsic rewards did not significantly improve reading attitudes. "The analysis of the quantitative data revealed statistically significant effects in favor of several classrooms involved in using multimedia book reviews when compared to the classrooms using the Accelerated Reader program." (Reinking, 2001, p. 214) what the study suggests is that the AR system is not as effective as other tools in raising the students' desire to read, even outside of school. Another issue pointed out by this researcher is that the use of Hypercard seemed to change the environment of the classroom;
we discovered that the challenge of working with Hypercard changed the social dynamics of the classrooms. Interactions among students increased when they were working with Hypercard in the computer lab. The teacher was no longer the focal point of class activities. Likewise, many students seemed to acquire a different persona in the computer lab. Some low-achieving students who were often marginalized in other academic activities became class experts in using Hypercard because of their ability to create interesting effects on the computer screen. In that role, they were often consulted by their higher achieving classmates. We observed some low-achieving students in this role develop more positive attitudes toward reading, which in turn led to increased reading. (Reinking, 2001, p. 214)
Reinking in short, attributed some of the comparative success of the Hypercard system to the creative challenges of the program, which create intrinsic rewards, and require higher-level comprehension. Though this research is not specific to AR or traditional reading instruction it is however important to note that there are alternatives to AR that answer the needs of the increasingly technology savvy education consumer and some may actually work better than AR as a motivational, long-term high expectation developers.
One of the claims of the AR creators and marketers is that AR creates long-term readers, who are engaged in and excited about learning. The studies I have read, do not suggest or substantiate these claims, in a scientific way. The research in fact gives a good indication that AR is a good supplemental program, but that the extrinsic reward, system in conjunction with non-phonemic instruction and low-level comprehension support make AR an expensive tool with only moderate demonstrative "scientific" success. This is contrary to the preconceived notions about the success of the program, which may have been skewed by the fact that those who make the considerable investment that is required for AR tend to extol its success with students and it has been marketed very heavily in the education system as a cure all for the ills of below grade level readers.
Information about AR, for it to be deemed "scientific" and accountable must be limited to isolated comparative studies as the application of AR tends to be in conjunction with many other reading interventions at any given school, all of which may play a part in the conception of the success and/or failure of the AR system to motivate and therefore increase reading skills in normal or below grade level readers. (Adler, 2002, p. 252) as has been stated before, the emphasis of many districts and schools is basically,…