Reading software yields gains in three Michigan districts

If there is a single skill most important to a child’s learning, it must be reading. Without the ability to read well, children will struggle to succeed in all their subjects. Even math requires a certain level of literacy to grasp and apply key concepts. But a number of factors may lead to literacy problems, including socio-economic circumstances, special education needs and ESL issues.

The School District of the City of Royal Oak in Royal Oak, Kearsley Community Schools in Flint, and Lake Orion Community Schools in Lake Orion, Michigan, have all approached their various literacy concerns the same way – by implementing the Fast ForWord® family of products to help students build and strengthen the cognitive skills required to read and learn effectively. Developed by Scientific Learning, and based on more than 30 years of neuroscience and cognitive research, program provides struggling readers with computer-delivered exercises that build the cognitive skills required to read and learn effectively.

Both the School District of the City of Royal Oak and Kearsley Community Schools piloted the Fast ForWord reading intervention software during the 2008-2009 school year. Lake Orion Community Schools is rolling out the software for the first time this fall.

In the School District of the City of Royal Oak, students at Oakland Elementary began working on the Fast ForWord software in spring 2008. From fall 2007 to fall 2008, the percentage of Oakland Elementary students scoring at the proficient level or above in English language arts on the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) increased. This fall, the urban district expanded the Fast ForWord program to all six elementary schools to deliver targeted instruction to students scoring in the lowest 5 percent to 7 percent on the MEAP, and to students identified as needing additional support through the district’s Response to Intervention (RTI) program. In addition, Upton Elementary, an English as a Second Language (ESL) magnet school, is using the Fast ForWord program to support English language learners.

“At Oakland Elementary, where MEAP scores had traditionally been low, students’ reading scores skyrocketed,” said Carol M. Hansen, executive director for student services. “Our speech and language teachers highly endorse the Fast ForWord program. It helps us zero in on students’ individual needs and give them the boost they need to be successful in the classroom.”

In 2008-09, Kearsley Community Schools piloted the Fast ForWord program in three elementary schools on five computers at each school, and in one middle school. This fall, the suburban district expanded its implementation within each school to deliver individualized interventions for struggling readers in grades two through eight.

Lake Orion Community Schools is installing the Fast ForWord program in seven elementary schools, three middle schools and one high school to provide targeted instruction for struggling learners and students who receive special education services. The suburban district will also integrate the software into its RTI model to provide individualized interventions for Tier 2 and Tier 3 students.

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