Study: Sixth graders achieve gains with reading software

Sixth graders at Langston Chapel Middle School who used the Fast ForWord® family of educational software products achieved substantial gains in reading and English language arts on the Northwest Evaluation Association’s Measures of Academic Progress (MAP), according to a study by Dr. Jody Woodrum, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning for grades K-5 inBulloch County Schools in Georgia.

Bulloch County Schools began using the Fast ForWord products, developed by Scientific Learning Corp. with targeted students during the 2007-2008 school year. During the 2009-2010 school year, for the first time, Langston Chapel Middle School used the Fast ForWord software across an entire grade. All sixth graders — including general education, at-risk, gifted and talented, English language learner, and special education students — worked on the Fast ForWord products 40 minutes a day for at least one semester.

According to Woodrum’s study, 77 percent of the sixth graders at Langston Chapel Middle School made English language arts gains on the MAP after using the Fast ForWord products. For the students who achieved gains, the gains were substantial, corresponding to the 99th percentile of the Growth National Percentile Rank (GNPR). The GNPR isa measure of improvement relative to “academic peers” — students in similar grades and at similar achievement levels.

In addition, 64 percent of the students increased their percentile rank on the reading component of the MAP. For the students who made reading gains, the gains were also large, corresponding to the 95th percentile for on or above grade level readers, and the 99th percentile for below grade level readers.

“What was particularly interesting about the data from this study is that most students made substantial gains, regardless of whether they were below, on, or above grade level,” said Woodrum. “When we looked at the MAP data, we also realized that not only were we seeing greater than expected growth in reading and English language arts but, depending upon the Fast ForWord product completed, we saw gains in math as well. A key benefit of Fast ForWord is that it builds students’ cognitive skills, in addition to their reading and language skills, which makes them more receptive to the excellent teaching going on in our classrooms. Fast ForWord also builds students’ confidence, which is particularly important at the middle school level. Students say to us, ‘I can do this now. I can understand what the teacher is saying to me. School makes sense now.’”

In fall 2010, Bulloch County Schools also began using Reading Assistant™ software in two schools, including Langston Chapel Middle School, and expanded the program to additional schools during the 2011-12 school year. The elementary and middle schools use the software, which combines speech recognition technology with research-based reading instruction, as part of their Response to Intervention program to help students strengthen their reading fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. The Fast ForWord program is currently used from the kindergarten level through the high school level in all 16 schools with targeted students of diverse ability levels.

“Across students in our district who are making gains, on average, we’re now seeing gains of one year and one month in reading ability level after using the Fast ForWord program for only 46 school days,” said Woodrum. “Last school year, we conducted pre- and post-assessments using Reading Progress Indicator within the Fast ForWord program. The average growth for students who made gains was 24 percentile points — that’s almost a quartile! We think this is making a big difference for students, particularly for our struggling learners, in Bulloch County.”