How It’s Done: Read All About It

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When Dan Harmon started teaching at the Collins Career Center in Chesapeake, the juniors and seniors were, on average, reading at a sixthor seventh-grade level. Some students were reading at a second- or third-grade level.


Sample screenshot from the Fast ForWord program.

The rural school serves 11th and 12th graders from eight high schools in the Lawrence County Joint Vocational School District (VSD), but with low literacy rates and poor scores on state tests, the students were not being served well. By 2007, when Harmon came on board, the curriculum team had decided to implement a reading-intervention program called Fast ForWord, from Scientific Learning.

In two years, students achieved significant gains on the Ohio Graduation Tests (OGT) in reading, writing, mathematics, science and social studies, and in 2009, students who used Fast ForWord achieved a 10-to-1 gain over their peers on all five tests of the OGT.

TIME ON TASK

Students use Fast ForWord for 30 minutes every day. Harmon says, “I explain that it’s like pre-conditioning for a team and that they need to exercise the brain and reconnect the neurons.”

Because of the positive results the school had with Fast ForWord, it began using another Scientific Learning product, Reading Assistant, in 2009. Reading Assistant combines advanced speech- recognition technology with scientifically based interventions to help students strengthen reading fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.

Harmon says students fail the Ohio Graduation Tests (OGT) because their reading level is too low and they can’t read enough in the time allotted. Within a month-anda- half of using Reading Assistant, however, the average student reads 11 more words per minute, which is enough to make a difference on the state test.

THE RESULTS ARE IN


In 2009, students who used Fast ForWord achieved greater gains in their OGT scores than students who did not use the program. For example, those who used Fast ForWord gained an average of 6.3 points in reading and 15.2 points in writing, compared with the nonusers, who decreased 2.1 points in reading and increased only 3.8 points in writing.

“A big reason students drop out of school is because they can’t read,” says Stephen K. Dodgion, superintendent of the Lawrence County JVSD. “Not only is literacy an issue, but we have an extremely high rate of poverty in our county. If we’re going to reverse that cycle, we have to educate young people. These programs help in every subject area because they enhance students’ ability to read.”

Harmon’s goal is to have every child in the district reading on grade level within the next 10 years. “It is my hope we can provide these programs for every school in our district, beginning at kindergarten and going all the way up through 12th grade,” he says.

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