Students in Westside Union School District Boost Reading Skills

The Westside Union School District in California began using the Fast ForWord® program in four schools in 2013 to help English language learners (ELL), students receiving special education services, and other students who were struggling academically. After using the online language and reading intervention for two-and-a-half months, the students improved their reading skills by an average of eight months,according to the district. Based on students’ success, the K-8 district will expand the Fast ForWord program district-wide to all 12 schools this fall.

“Like most California districts, we’re in the process of transitioning to the Common Core. We wanted to be sure we had additional support in place for students with disabilities and English language learners, so they don’t get lost in the shuffle as we move to even more rigorous standards,” said Marguerite Johnson, assistant superintendent of educational services for Westside Union. “What first drew us to Fast ForWord was its strong research base. Then, once we began using the program, the amount of growth we saw was pretty exciting.”

Developed by Scientific Learning Corp., Fast ForWord is used in schools across the nation to help students raise their reading skill level. In Westside Union School District, the program will be targeted to special education and ELL students.

“One of our principals summed up the Fast ForWord program best. She said they expected it would help students with their reading skills. What they didn’t anticipate was that once students used the program and saw they could be successful, their whole attitude and demeanor changed — they dressed differently, they spoke differently, they participated in class,” said Johnson. “With Fast ForWord, we aim to not only improve students’ reading skills but to set them up for a much more successful school experience all the way around.”