Reading intervention program boosts learning in Florida district

Highlands County School District in Sebring, Fla. is the first district in the nation to deliver the Fast ForWord educational software program to students using the new SciLEARN™ Enterprise application. With this application, the rural district is able to provide its high schools with web-based access to the Fast ForWord program from a single server at the district level..

Developed by Scientific Learning, Fast ForWord® is a family of educational products that address a cognitive challenge routinely faced by students: the inability to process information as quickly as it is being presented. By exercising the parts of the brain that contribute to learning — memory, attention, processing and sequencing — schools can help improve students’ ability to learn and retain knowledge, and maintain an accelerated rate of learning even after the program ends.

“For the last several years, our high schools have made progress with regular education students, but students in the lowest quartile have not made annual learning gains on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT),” said Kim Ervin, reading director for Highlands County School District. “We have excellent teachers, research-based reading programs, and a strong professional development program, but we were not meeting the needs of these students — and continuing to give them more of the same was getting us nowhere. We decided to try the Fast ForWord program and we have had amazing success.”

In visits to intensive reading classrooms at each high school, Ervin has heard from many students who say Fast ForWord is improving their reading proficiency and self-confidence. “Students say they are now ‘reading more smoothly,’ which tells me they are improving critical skills such as fluency and decoding,” said Ervin. “Teachers who have these students for other subjects are also seeing a positive change in students’ ability to maintain their focus in class.”

According to Ervin, another change is that students are now engaged and motivated. “Motivation is often huge problem with students who struggle,” said Ervin. “With the Fast ForWord program, students are engaged, which is a big change from interventions we’ve used in the past. I’m also seeing a lot more individualization, thanks to the Scientific Learning Progress Tracker tool, which allows teachers to run reports and implement suggested interventions. And, because students are motivated, teachers are re-energized and motivated as well.”

With the browser capabilities of the SciLEARN Enterprise application, schools no longer need to install the Fast ForWord software at each student station at each school. Instead, using the web-enabled application, Highlands County School District can concurrently deploy the Fast ForWord software to students across the district.