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Forecasting ROI from Fast ForWord® and Reading Assistant™ Products

Return on Investment, or “ROI” is a straightforward concept.  With educational interventions, we invest something (typically time, money, or energy) and receive some benefit. 

The primary benefit of investing time, money, and energy in Fast ForWord® and Reading Assistant™ products is increased student achievement.  This benefit has always been a focus for Scientific Learning.   However, in our discussions with customers, we realized that many district stakeholders had a parallel benefit that they are concerned with: the financial impact on their district as a whole.  We decided to see if we could address and quantify this parallel (and perhaps complementary) view of ROI.

We identified four areas where data suggest that implementation of Scientific Learning products can impact a district’s financial costs:

  • Reduction of the high school dropout rate
  • Reduction of referrals to special education
  • Reduction of the number of students who require ELL services
  • Reduction of the number of students classified as “struggling readers”

Here’s an example of how we tried to quantify one of these benefits.  A district in Swartz Creek, Michigan observed a 30% drop year-over-year in special education referrals after implementing Fast ForWord products with their students. To be safe, we chose a very statistically conservative estimate for the reduction a new customer might expect to see in their special education referral rates: 21.2%.  Technically, we got this by looking at the lower bound of a 95% confidence interval for the effect based on the Swartz Creek data.  

These estimates led to the creation of Scientific Learning’s Return on Investment Tool.  The tool estimates the ROI—that is, the true financial cost—of using Scientific Learning products over a three year horizon.  This includes the initial software purchase and three years of product support. Note that we often see ROIs greater than 100% (i.e. a net financial benefit) for medium to large implementations with lots of students.

If we take a look at a three-year ROI for a large implementation, in year one the costs exceed the financial benefits, but in subsequent years the products more than pay for themselves.  Actual estimates will depend greatly on the individual district and the scope of the implementation. 

To get an ROI estimate for your school or district, contact us.

Related Reading:

Over 45% Relative Improvement in Students Reaching Proficiency

79% of ELL Students Increase Proficiency by One or More Levels

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Categories: Education Trends, English Language Learners, Fast ForWord, Reading & Learning, Reading Assistant, Scientific Learning Research, Special Education

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7 Amazing Discoveries from Brain Research

Brain research

As the webinar coordinator and moderator here at Scientific Learning, I’ve had the privilege of hearing many wonderful speakers on a variety of compelling topics.  Of all of the webinars I’ve presided over, one of my favorites was the one presented by Eric Jensen in September, 2010, titled “7 Amazing Discoveries from Brain Research.” For that webinar, our most highly-attended ever, Eric took complex concepts about the brain and made them more “user friendly” and interesting.  At the end of the session, I was excited to go learn and study more on my own about the brain and how it functions!

Of the seven discoveries presented in this webinar, the one that I found to be most intriguing was the concept that our emotions can influence our minds and bodies.  For years, people have discussed the connection between emotions and the body but now there is research being done that proves that there is indeed a link.  For example, one study cited in this webinar indicates that there are approximately 6 – 8 emotions that are innate and the rest are taught by parents, teachers, friends, technology, etc.  If children aren’t given the opportunity to learn about a wide range of emotions, this gives them not only  less of an ability to handle conflicts and issues that might come up for them but could hinder their learning process.

To learn more about brain research discoveries that can help you in the classroom and beyond, be sure to check out the recorded webinar

To learn more about Eric Jensen, visit the Jensen Learning website.

Related Reading:

Brain Plasticity: Using Advances in Technology for Better Living

You Unplugged: Finding Balance with Extended Reading, Writing, and Thinking Time

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Categories: Brain Research, Reading & Learning

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Endorsing the Common Core State Standards Initiative

Common Core State StandardsThe Common Core State Standards Initiative is a state-led effort to provide a nationally consistent framework that will ready American students for success in college and in the global workforce. To date, 44 states have adopted the common core standards approach and numerous public and private business partners, including Scientific Learning, have endorsed this vision of consistence and clarity in our nation’s education system. 

What’s important to recognize is that the Common Core State Standards Initiative is NOT a directive from the federal government.  Each state voluntarily adopts the standards based on timelines and context within their state; this is key.  The role of the federal government will be to support states as they begin to implement this approach by providing flexibility in the use of existing federal funds, accountability metrics and revise or align existing federal education laws with the lessons learned from past initiatives.  The outcome will be a more collaborative state- and federal-level relationship that will focus on employing the best practices and highest evidence-based outcomes from educational research across the country.

The goal of the Common Core is to provide educators with an exocentric understanding of what students are expected to learn, allowing them to identify the most effective strategies and modes of instruction that will help them excel in serving their students’ needs.  Leading the effort are the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center).  Comprised of state leaders in conjunction with parents, teachers, school administrators, business partners and experts from across the country, they have developed a shared set of goals and expectations that will help our students succeed.

To ensure this process is collaborative, inclusive and rigorous, several working groups and committees have been formed to develop, write and validate the approach to implementing these common standards across the country.  By aligning our country’s standards with other high achieving educational models and setting realistic goals, we will be better positioned to meet the real world expectations and prepare our nation’s students for college and career-oriented success beyond the K-12 classroom.

The importance of the Common Core State Standards Initiative continues to be viewed from many angles, although there are areas of uncertainty that have given rise to opposition.  Of course, standards alone cannot improve the quality of our nation’s education system, but they do give educators a clearer vision for setting goals and expectations for their students.  The standards will not prevent different levels of achievement among students, but they will help teachers provide more consistent exposure to curriculum and meaningful instruction through opportunity-based learning and classroom experiences. 

Students will no doubt benefit as our country continues to do the right things in calibrating the education system, promoting more frequent, intense and adaptive instruction to improve the way students learn and strengthen our rank among the top-performing nations in the world.

Related Reading:

How Scientific Learning Products Correlate with Common Core State Standards

Common Core State Standards Initiative: Myths vs. Facts

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Categories: Education Funding, Grants, and Stimulus, Education Trends, Reading & Learning

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Inspiring Students to Dream, Learn and Grow

Engaged student

We educators talk a lot about student engagement. We understand that engagement is the magic key that drives the student and creates the moment when they become self-motivated. Engagement must be at the core of our goals as educators, for an engaged student finds wonder in their learning, and they not only find meaning in their studies, but they grow personally, for a lifetime, as a result of that learning.

But what do we really mean when we talk about the engaged student? What does it look like in the brain when a student is truly inspired? In the 2008 article, Engaging Students with Brain-Based Learning, the authors cite research from LeDoux, Eden and Schacter whose studies found connections between learning and 1) connections with emotions and memories, 2) relationships to real-life experiences, and 3) “activation of both the auditory and visual areas of the brain to create meaning.”[i]In short, they are talking about what has become known as “brain-based learning,” which consists of teaching strategies that encourage the brain to make associations and “create synaptic connections and anchor learning through contextual experience.”[ii]

In many ways, the research has confirmed what humanity’s greatest thinkers discovered long ago. How many years has it been since you slowed down and went back to meditate for a moment on some of the great axioms about learning and education? They hold wonderful hints and secrets that not only still apply, but have been proven by even the most modern research.

  • Education's purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one.” (Malcolm Forbes, 1919-1990) To engage our students, we need to teach them not only to develop answers, but also learn to ask questions. We need to engage their judgment, creativity and reason, not just their memories.
  • Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” (William Butler Yeats, 1865-1939) Clearly for students to be inspired to not just succeed but also to exceed, we educators must engage their passions and, as stated above, their emotions. Our challenge is to seek out those things that are of direct personal interest to our students, and then show them how to find the connections to these passions and what we’re focusing on in the classroom.
  • There is nothing training cannot do. Nothing is above its reach. It can turn bad morals to good; it can destroy bad principles and recreate good ones; it can lift men to angelship.” (Mark Twain, 1835-1910) These words are beautiful at so many levels, but at the purely practical one, Twain reminds us of something that we need to bring to our students attention every day. We can help them develop an awareness that they are learning so much more than facts and processes; they are learning the skills that will allow them to contribute to solving the problems of humanity. In short, we need to show them how they are developing the power to change the world.

What? Who has time to instill passion, emotion and caring? Many teachers are doing this every day, but we need more! Quite often, educators are pressed more to ensure that students are able to do their multiplication tables, find the capital of North Carolina on a map of the United States and recite the chemical formula for water. 

And yet, our greatest challenge remains inextricably linked to our greatest hope for the future. We must do all we can to light those fires of inspiration and help our students find those deep personal connections to their learning. If we can do that, not only will they learn more successfully, but it will be our students who grab the reins, take charge of their learning, and maybe—just maybe—find their way toward Twain’s angelship.

[i] Kaufman, E. Robinson, S. Bellah, K. Akers, C. Haase-Wittler, P. Martindale, L. Engaging Students with Brain-Based Learning. ACTE Online. September 2008.

[ii]Ibid.

For further reading:

Pychyl , Timothy A. Don't Delay: Understanding procrastination and how to achieve our goals. Psychology Today Blogs. May 10, 2008.

Haenke, Rod. Using Brain Research to Engage Students. Engage Learner. October 3, 2008. 

Related Reading:

Using the Human Element to Make Science Fun and Approachable

Teaching Creativity in the Classroom

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Categories: Brain Fitness, Brain Research, Education Trends, Reading & Learning

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Students Exceed State Average on TAKS after Fast ForWord, Maintain Gains

Since the 2004-2005 school year, the Dallas Independent School District has used the Fast ForWord products in many of their high schools. This multi-year study followed more than 500 high school students from 20 schools over the years of their Fast ForWord participation.   This study shows impressive longitudinal results on the TAKS which is The Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills which is administered annually throughout Texas and is closely aligned with the state curricular standards.   A longitudinal study is a type of study that follows the same subjects over time.

Students started with the Fast ForWord Middle & High School product, now known as the Fast ForWord Literacy product. Many went on to use the Fast ForWord Language to Reading and Fast ForWord to Reading products. On average, students spent 60 days using the products during a 5 ½ month period.

 The scores of Fast ForWord participants moved in step with the state average until the students started to use Fast ForWord products.  During the year of Fast ForWord product use, the participants experienced accelerated learning that separated their performance from that of their peers.  Even up to two years after they finished using the products, the Fast ForWord participants maintained their improvements. The TAKS gains made during the study were statistically larger for the Dallas Fast ForWord participants than the gains made by their statewide peers.

Related Reading:

Why Time Matters in Learning

After Just 24 Days, Summer School Students Significantly Improve Reading Scores

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Categories: Education Trends, Reading & Learning, Scientific Learning Research

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Antidotes to Summer Brain Drain (Part 1): Tips and Tools for Fun Math Skills Practice

Blended learning

Every year, educators work hard to help their students learn as much as possible, squeezing in all the high-value knowledge they can. But come summer vacation, a solid percentage of that learning is lost as students walk away from school and get anywhere from six to twelve weeks to forget about the pressures of school and just go and be kids.

So, what can we do to minimize summer brain drain while still giving kids the break they need?

Since most kids backslide in math more than they do in reading (2.6 months of grade level equivalency, on average[i]), many parents welcome ideas for keeping math skills afloat without drowning the summer spirit.  Fortunately, with a little creativity, fun opportunities to practice math skills abound.

Look for ways to incorporate math into everyday activities.  Let your child pay with cash at the store.  Or have your child figure out the tip at a restaurant – without a calculator. Include your child in figuring out how much fabric you need to make curtains.  Bake together—and double the recipe, or halve it, letting your child figure out what the new measurements are for each ingredient.

If your child enjoys reading, add some math books to her summer reading list.  Your middle or high school student might enjoy the classic Flatland, a story that takes place entirely in two physical dimensions.  If you have an advanced math learner on your hands, she might be willing to give The Manga Guide to Calculus a try.  (There are additional Manga titles on Physics, Statistics, Molecular Biology, and other advanced subjects.)  Learners in middle school or the upper elementary grades may be interested in Math Curse. Math Fables is good for very young children (K – 1), while The Grapes of Math is more appropriate for ages 6 – 10 and Math Potatoes for grades 3-6.

For the child who loves computer games, Math Playground is a web site with free multimedia math games for elementary through middle school students.  The games on Math Playground are not indexed by grade level and the site features a lot of advertising, but the games are free & reasonably entertaining. In MathHoops, kids can solve word problems for a chance to shoot some hoops (this game does specify grades 3 - 5).  There’s a “need help” button for tips on how to translate the word problem into math steps (e.g., “key words like ‘more’ tell you to add”).

The X Detectives lets kids play secret agent, driving around a training compound in the “X-mobile” to work on skills in four different locations, such as negative numbers in the Integer Room and algebra puzzles in the Gadget Shop.  Party Designer requires kids to use algebraic reasoning to design a party floor plan. 

As Thomas Haller and Chick Moorman note in their article Summer Brain Drain: Tips to Help Your Child Avoid Summer Brain Drain, the key is balancing learning with fun.  They suggest a multitude of ways to practice academic skills while enjoying summer recreational activities.  Be sure to check out the article for ideas about how to incorporate math while playing in the pool, taking a road trip, playing card games, and collecting money for charity.  Perhaps the best advice is to model learning for your child by turning off the TV or video games and picking up a book or taking an art class.  Even if your kids don’t avoid the summer brain drain – you will!

If you enjoyed this post on avoiding the Summer Brain Drain, be sure to sign up to receive future posts in your inbox and be sure to catch Part 2 later this month!

Related Reading:

Fun Science Experiments for Classroom or Home

Fit Bodies Make Fit Brains: Physical Exercise and Brain Cells
 

[i] Strauss, Valerie. Active Summer, Active Minds: Educators Seek Ways to Prevent Learning Losses During Vacation. Monday, June 15, 2009.

 

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Categories: Education Trends, Family Focus, Reading & Learning

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Opening the Classroom Through Online Collaboration: 21st Century Learning Environments

Online collaboration in our classrooms

Fifteen short years ago, our classrooms were relatively closed places. When we spoke of teaching students to collaborate with one another or exposing them to the world beyond our school walls, we were usually talking about a very limited number of options: either going out into the world to experience it first hand on a field trip, or bringing the outside world in via hosting a guest speaker. In rare and wonderful cases, students had the opportunity to go on exchange programs. In this way, “collaboration” meant working in small teams with fellow classmates.

Today, such collaboration is no longer dependent upon proximity or time of day. Online tools have brought down the many barriers to communication, allowing students, teachers and professionals to interact with and learn from one another regardless of location.

The potential for learning is mind-blowing to say the least. With a savvy educator as a coach and guide, the entire world can become the classroom, and peoples who populate it can be our co-educators. Even our students have the opportunity to become the teachers.

What do our students have to gain if we take steps to embrace online collaboration in our classrooms? We need only look to a few real-life examples to see:

  • Students in New Jersey are building understanding by learning about others. Through video conferencing, they have interviewed others their age in Iowa to talk about how they perceive one another and how the economic crisis is affecting their lives and families.[i] Read about the efforts that are transforming the Van Meter Community School District in Iowa, written by Superintendent John Carver.
  • Teachers in the US are using free video conferencing such as Skype to facilitate international conversations. For example, educator Silvia Tolisano put together conversations in German and English by connecting her class with one in Argentina. See this and lots more examples in this article, 50 Awesome Ways to Use Skype in the Classroom.
  • If you haven’t heard of it, the ePals Global Learning Community is facilitating collaborative learning across the planet. Through their network, students and teachers come together to do everything from using digital storytelling to learn about world cultures to discussing and developing solutions to global warming. Visit the Projects section of ePals for ideas and ways to plug into great work already underway.

Of course, these kinds of tools and techniques expose our students to all that the world—literally—has to offer. But just as importantly, in using these strategies we are helping our students establish the neural connections that will make these kinds of experiences second nature to them. We are strengthening their abilities to focus more on the meaningful content and creative ideas that come from these experiences as opposed to focusing on just the superficial “wow” factor. Not only that, but we are helping them develop the habits of mind for using these tools and techniques that will serve them so well as they endeavor to solve problems in the future.

For more ideas and articles about online collaboration, check out eSchool News’ collection of articles on the subject at http://www.eschoolnews.com/2010/11/21/engaging-students-through-online-collaboration/

[i] Prabhu, Maya T. Will Skype eclipse fee-based videoconferencing? eSchool News. May 17, 2010. http://www.eschoolnews.com/2010/05/17/will-skype-eclipse-fee-based-videoconferencing/?ast=55

Related Reading:

Creating the Optimal "Internal" Learning Environment

Ok, So You Made a Mistake. But Look What You Learned!

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Categories: Education Trends, Reading & Learning

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4 Ways to Celebrate Brain Awareness Week 2011

Brain Awareness Week 2011

It’s Brain Awareness Week! Join us every day from March 14-20 as we share information about the brain, how the brain learns, and how educators can address some of the challenges in education today.

Need some ideas for how to celebrate Brain Awareness Week and honor this most important of organs?

  1. Incorporate “Brain Awareness” Into Your Classroom
    Need some ideas on this one? For starters, download some of our educational Classroom Resources for Teachers, a variety of fun and informative worksheets and experiments on topics related to the brain.  (My favorite is the Grocery Store Game, which tests memory span and mnemonic strategies.) Then have your students try our free Scientific Learning® BrainApps™ games for a brain fitness challenge!

  2. Catch Up On the Best Blog Posts About the Brain
    Whether you’re new to this blog or a long time reader, there are sure to be some great posts you haven’t yet explored.  In celebration of Brain Awareness Week, here are some of the most popular brain-related posts: Educating Kids about Nutrition and the Brain – learn how you can create the ultimate brain-health meal, the "Brainiac Blue Plate Combo!” The Adolescent Brain –find out what your adolescent is really thinking and how his or her developing brain works. Benefits of Music in Schools: The Effects of Music on the Brain – check out what the latest research says regarding the importance of music education and its benefits for learning. Dr. Norman Doidge on Brain Plasticity – discover the truth…old dogs can learn new tricks, all lifelong.

  3. Tweet the Brain, Learn, and Win
    This week on Twitter, we will be testing your knowledge of the brain.  Play with us for a chance to win one of our “brain” goody bags each day!  Follow @brainfitness and join in the fun! 

  4. Subscribe to Receive All of Our Brain Awareness Week Posts
    Subscribe to this blog (below) to have our blog posts show up in your inbox during Brain Awareness Week and beyond. Thanks for joining us for Brain Awareness Week!  All of The Science of Learning bloggers look forward to sharing it with you!

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Adult and Family literacy in the US; limitations to our Nation’s success

improving literacy

“Some people there are who, being grown; forget the horrible task of learning to read. It is perhaps the greatest single effort that the human undertakes, and he must do it as a child.” –John Steinbeck

But what about those who fail to become literate through traditional schooling?  Low literacy continues to be a persistent problem among adults in the United States.  Results from the National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL), available through the National Center for Education Statistics, found that 30 million adults have “below basic” literacy skills, with more than half of those scoring at this level not having a high school diploma or GED.  This translates to nearly 1 out of every 6 adults, age 25 and older, across the country.  This crisis has resulted in the following:  (findings from the Report of the National Commission on Adult Literacy)

  • U.S. Scores Poorly Internationally. The U.S. is the only country among 30 OECD free-market countries where the current generation is less well educated than the previous one.
  • High School Dropout Rates Are Staggering. Every year, one in three young adults—more than 1.2 million people—drop out of high school.
  • Low Parent Learning Affects Children. One in four U.S. working families is low-income, and one in five children lives in poverty. Parents and caregivers in many of these households lack the education and skills to earn a family-sustaining wage.
  • Low Literacy in Burgeoning Prison Population. One in every 100 U.S. adults 16 and older is in prison or jail in America.  About 43 percent do not have a high school diploma or equivalent, and 56 percent have very low literacy skills.
  • Large and Growing English Language and Literacy Need. About 2 million immigrants come to the U.S. each year seeking jobs and better lives—the promise of America. About 50 percent of them have low literacy levels and lack high school education and English language skills, severely limiting their access to jobs and job training, college, and citizenship.

Yet despite the challenges, there is an incentive to overcome these obstructions.  A better educated more literate population will improve our standard of living and offer benefits in the following ways:

  • Higher rates of employment and better jobs
  • Increases in personal income and individual economic well being
  • Increases in voter participation, volunteerism and civic engagement
  • Better health and more effective healthcare
  • A greater fiscal contribution to our economy at all government levels

And at the very heart of this is you, an influential role model and innovator whose evidence-based approach to education will boost our country back into a position of global leadership; because effective education is the best investment we can make!

Related Reading:

The 30 Million Word Gap in Language Experience Puts Kids At Risk

HABLA Program Helps Disadvantaged Early Learners Lay Foundations for Success

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Categories: Education Trends, Family Focus

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Where is Superman?

Waiting for Superman

Why wait for Superman?  Students across the country are making great academic gains with great teaching, rich content and outstanding educators.

Take a look at Patterson High School in St Mary Parish, Louisiana where Kenny Hilliard could barely read at the level of a second grader when he reached high school. After a few weeks of doing the Fast ForWord program at school, he reads at grade level and he understands what he reads. Once at risk of dropping out of high school, now Kenny is headed for Louisiana State University on a football scholarship. Kenny had great teachers, a rich curriculum and a community that supported his academic and athletic goals. Yet Kenny, like many other students across the country, needed an intervention to help build his cognitive skills of memory, attention, processing and sequencing – the skills necessary for reading and learning.

“What changed is that Kenny did a computer program called Fast ForWord,” said Patterson High School Principal, Rachael Wilson. “He is such a talented football player, and his talents can carry him far, but recruiters are looking for kids who have talent and good grades. The first two questions recruiters ask me are ‘What kind of kid is he?’ and ‘What kind of grades does he make?’ Thanks to the progress Kenny made in Fast ForWord, he does not need to rely on athletic talent alone.”

Kenny says he was a little nervous at first, but he decided to give Fast ForWord a try. It is a program that is proven to accelerate learning and increase reading proficiency in students from kindergarten through high school. The software consists of brain fitness exercises and actually improves how the brain learns.

“It worked,” said Wilson. “Within weeks, Kenny began to see a change in his ability to focus. Over time, his reading comprehension improved dramatically and that’s helped him in all subjects, and he has the GPA and ACT scores required for enrollment into a four-year university.”

Today, Kenny continues to break records playing football for St. Mary Parish School District and is planning for his college courses at LSU. To learn more about Kenny and his amazing story, watch this video.

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Categories: Brain Fitness, Education Trends, Fast ForWord, Reading & Learning

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