Programs that Work
Children Succeeding in School
Students performing at grade level or meeting state curriculum standards
Age of Child
Early Childhood (0-8)
Middle Childhood (9-12)
Type of Setting
Type of Service
Type of Outcome Addressed
Cognitive Development / School Performance
Evidence Level (What does this mean?)
Accelerated Reader is a computer program designed to facilitate independent reading in the classroom for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. Accelerated Reader monitors students' progress and provides feedback on reading comprehension to the students and their teachers. Accelerated Reader is intended to complement core reading programs used by teachers. Teachers are able to guide student reading through Accelerated Reader by directing their selection of reading materials. After reading a book, students complete quizzes assessing reading comprehension (Magnolia Consulting, 2010).
Accelerated Reader has been used in kindergarten through 12 grade.
There is a large body of research on the effectiveness of Accelerated Reader. One study utilized an experimental design that compared intervention group outcomes with those of a control group (Magnolia Consulting 2010). Other studies conducted do not meet the PPN criteria for inclusion. Only the results of the study that meets PPN criteria are presented here. Note that this study evaluated only Accelerated Reader use for 1st through 4th grades, so we do not present evidence on the effectiveness of Accelerated Reader for other grades.
Magnolia Consulting conducted an evaluation of Accelerated Reader among 1st- through 4th-graders during the 2009-2010 school year in three private Catholic schools. The schools were located in a large city in the North-Central region of the United States. Within each school, teachers were randomized to the intervention or control group, such that half of the teachers within each grade were in each group. In total, 19 teachers from the three schools were randomized. There were 344 students within the 19 classrooms. Students were evaluated using the STAR Reading test at pretest, midpoint, and posttest and using Accelerated Reader quizzes, which were administered throughout. The average student took 20 quizzes every week. Student gains in reading from pretest to midpoint and pretest to posttest were compared between intervention and control students. Despite random assignment, there were significant differences on STAR reading test performance at pretest, with control group students performing significantly better than intervention group students on average (mean pretest score: control group 417.91 vs. intervention 372.27). These differences were controlled for in the analyses. Analyses accounted for nesting of students within classrooms.
Key Evaluation Findings
The Magnolia Consulting (2010) evaluation found no significant impact of Accelerated Reader on student performance between pretest and midterm. Between pretest and posttest, however, students in the Accelerated Reader group demonstrated significantly higher gains in reading achievement on average when compared with students in the control group.
Elementary school teachers, reading specialists
Approximately 60 percent of schools using Accelerated Reader fund the program using existing funds. The Accelerated Reader program meets the requirements of No Child Left Behind and qualifies for federal funding under the following programs: Title I, Part A (Improving Academic Achievement of the Disadvantaged, Improving Basic Programs); Title I, Part B (Reading First); Title II, Part D (Enhancing Education Through Technology); Title III, Part A (English Language Acquisition); Title IV, Part A, Subpart I (Safe and Drug-Free Schools); Title IV, Part B (21st Century Community Learning Centers); Title V, Part A (Innovative Programs); and Title VI, Part B (Rural Education Achievement Program).
More information regarding funding can be obtained through the Renaissance Learning website: http://www.renlearn.com/fundingcenter/default.aspx.
The Accelerated Reader program is a computer software program that was designed to facilitate independent reading by students in the classroom and to assist teachers with evaluating student reading performance. Accelerated Reader was not designed to be a core reading program; it is intended to be used in conjunction with core reading programs already in place in classrooms (Magnolia Consulting 2010). Students begin by reading a book at their reading level. After reading the book, students take a quiz using the Accelerated Reader software to assess reading comprehension. The software is designed to provide detailed feedback on student performance that teachers can use to guide each student's reading practice. Students also receive immediate feedback after taking comprehension quizzes.
The Accelerated Reader program does not require additional staff as it is designed to be used alongside core reading programs already in place in classrooms.
Issues to Consider
The evaluation conducted by Magnolia Consulting during the 2009-2010 school year was a randomized evaluation in which classrooms were assigned to the Accelerated Reader program (intervention group) or to the standard reading program used by the given teacher (control group). This study included students only in 1st through 4th grades. The evaluation found significantly higher gains in reading, as assessed by the STAR reading test, for students in the Accelerated Reader classrooms, compared with the control classrooms when comparing pretest to posttest performance. The Accelerated Reader program has been used through 12th grade, but the effectiveness of the program beyond 4th grade has not been assessed by studies that meet the PPN evidence criteria.
Accelerated Reader is also available with a program management option which includes consultation from Renaissance Learning throughout the year as Accelerated Reader is implemented. This program is available at an additional cost to the basic Accelerated Reader Program. Schools may also purchase on-site or remote consultation on an hourly or daily basis. Two evaluations have assessed the impact of Accelerated Reader with program management through randomized controlled trials (Nunnery et al., 2006 & Ross et al., 2004). These evaluations are not presented in detail here because the use of Renaissance consultants is not a standard part of the Accelerated Reader program The evaluation conducted by Ross et al. (2004) found significant positive effects of the Accelerated Reader program in kindergarten through third grades but not in fourth through sixth grades. The evaluation conducted by Nunnery et al. (2006) found significant positive effects of Accelerated Reader among students in grades three through six.
The Magnolia Consulting evaluation used the STAR Early Literacy and STAR Reading tests to evaluation student reading achievement. Both the Accelerated Reader software and the STAR reading tests were designed by Renaissance Learning; the STAR Reading and Early Literacy measures were also validated by Renaissance Learning (Renaissance Learning, 2012, and Renaissance Learning, 2013).
Finally, the Magnolia Consulting (2010) evaluation found no significant interaction between gender and program group (i.e., Accelerated Reader or control group) or between ethnicity and program group. This indicates that the effect of the Accelerated Reading program did not differ across children of different genders or ethnicities.
The Accelerated Reader program has been implemented in many different locations such as Pascagoula and Biloxi, Mississippi and school districts throughout Florida.
Renaissance Learning, Inc.
PO Box 8036
Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin 54495-8036
Renaissance Learning website:
A Final Report for the Evaluation of Renaissance Learning's Accelerated Reader Program,
Charlottesville, Va., 2010. As of January 31, 2013:
Nunnery, John A., Steven M. Ross, and Aaron McDonald, "A Randomized Experimental Evaluation of the Impact of Accelerated Reader/Reading Renaissance Implementation on Reading Achievement in Grades 3 to 6," Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk, Vol. 11 No. 1, 2006. pp. 1-18.
Renaissance Learning, Renaissance Tools Qualify for Federal Funding, Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., 2012. As of January 31, 2013: http://doc.renlearn.com/KMNet/R004060615GGE424.pdf
Renaissance Learning, STAR Early Literacy: Technical Manual, Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., 2012. As of January 31, 2013: http://doc.renlearn.com/KMNet/R004327609GJB0BF.pdf
Renaissance Learning, STAR Reading: Technical Manual, Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., 2013. As of January 31, 2013: https://resources.renlearnrp.com/US/Manuals/SR/SRRPTechnicalManual.pdf
Ross, Steven M., John A. Nunnery, and Elizabeth Goldfeder, "A Randomized Experiment on the Effects of Accelerated Reader/Reading Renaissance in an Urban School District: Final Evaluation Report," University of Memphis, Center for Research in Educational Policy, 2004. http://doc.renlearn.com/KMNet/R004076723GH55D8.pdf