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Recently I said something shocking to my eleven-year old daughter. I told her not to do her homework. More specifically, I gave her permission to politely refuse to take Accelerated Reader/Renaissance Reading quizzes or write book reflections whose grades are based on AR points.

My frustration stems from the fact that a majority of her reading grade has nothing to do with her reading ability. It has to do with her compliance and her ability to get us to sign things on time. If she has to get grades, I want them to reflect what she’s learning.

I’ve battled the AR mentality since she started middle school last year. I’m a rule follower by nature, so I’ve gone through the proper channels – talking to teachers and administrators, sharing research, talking with other parents – always keeping what is best for kids at the forefront of my conversations. I’ve had lots of good conversations but very little else. I get that change in education moves at glacial speed, but quite frankly, I’m ready for a little educational global warming.

A conversation on Halloween night pushed me to the edge, and a conversation last week was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.

The first conversation was between S and a 7th grade friend. We were going home after trick-or-treating, and the conversation in the back seat turned to school, and ultimately to AR points. After we dropped off the friend, I told S not to worry about AR and the book reflections. She says, “You know, mom, you’re fighting a losing battle. Next year I’ll have to take AR tests like every two weeks!” I assured her that it wasn’t a losing battle, and that I would continue to have conversations with her principal and teachers about the negative aspects of AR.  After she went to bed, I made a mental note that I needed to touch base with school again.

Then last week, on our way home from basketball practice, she and a friend started talking about school, and, of course, reading came up. That part of the conversation stopped me in my tracks. It went something like this.

  • Friend: I hate reading!
  • S: I like to read, but lately I like it less and less.
  • Friend:  Why?
  • S: I feel like I’m rushing; reading for points instead of enjoying the story.
  • Me:  Then stop reading for points.
  • S & Friend at the same time: WHAT??
  • Me: I said, stop reading for points. I don’t care about the grade. I don’t care about the points. I care that you enjoy reading. Stop reading for points and just enjoy the story.

I dropped the friend off, and S was pretty quiet the rest of the way home. After a shower and dinner, she asked me about it again. I reiterated that I wanted her to stop reading for points. She pointed out that 25% of her grade was based on the points and/or reflections. I very honestly told her that in the big picture, it was 6th grade reading, and no one would remember that grade past this year. Middle school GPA’s mean nothing in the big picture of life, and twenty years from now, I wanted her to still love reading.

The second quarter just began. There’s a designated number of Renaissance Reading quizzes and/or book reflections to do, and S has permission to not do them. At some point the reading teacher will comment that she hasn’t done any and try to encourage her to get going. I’ve told her to very politely tell him that she’s opting out, and if he has questions, he needs to call me.

I’m feeling a bit like a rebel, but at this point, I don’t care. I’ve tried the proper channels (and I’ll continue because this is about more than just my kids), but right now it’s not about the system.

It’s about one girl who has loved to read since she was very small, and I’m not about to let anyone take that away from her.