Thanks to its intensive efforts to help struggling readers in kindergarten through third grade, Beaufort County Schools (BCS) has reduced the percentage of third graders who read below the proficient level by nearly 36 percent over the last five years. This year, the rural district, which is located in one of North Carolina’s poorest counties, is expanding its efforts to improve students’ literacy skills with an Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) grant from the U.S. Department of Education and the Fast ForWord online reading intervention from Scientific Learning Corp.
In fall 2012, BCS was one of 46 high-need districts and schools selected to receive a two-year IAL grant, which aims to boost literacy skills for low-income students. After successfully implementing the Fast ForWord program in one elementary school last summer, BCS decided to use a portion of the IAL grant to expand its Fast ForWord implementation to all seven elementary schools in the district.
“Fast ForWord is a key piece that supports all of the important work we’re doing in the area of literacy,” said Donald W. Phipps, Ed.D., superintendent of BCS. “We feel it’s a good way to meet the needs of all our students, no matter where they are in reading or what their socioeconomic status is. Because the Fast ForWord program is based on the science of how the brain learns, we believe it will help increase student achievement in reading and provide benefits in other academic areas as well. We also like the fact that, because it’s an online program, it gives us a different way to work with students that they find enjoyable, too.”
At each BCS elementary school, selected students work on the Fast ForWord program approximately 40 minutes a day. The Fast ForWord program addresses reading skills and helps develops foundational cognitive skills like memory, attention, processing, and sequencing. Through the IAL grant, the Fast ForWord program will be incorporated into the district’s afterschool and summer school programs for students who test below proficiency on the DIBELS assessment.