- School District: Boone County School District
- Number of Students: 17,078
- Grades: Pre-K to 12
- Population: ELL students 2%; Students with IEPs 13%
- Assessment tool: Scantron Performance Series
- School Structure: Suburban
Boone County School District deems Fast ForWord® software a big success.
As Deputy Superintendent of Schools for Kentucky's Boone County School District, Randy Poe attended an AASA conference five years ago. He and his colleagues saw an interesting presentation at the Fast ForWord booth.
"We received the literature, talked to some people, and got some of the research," Poe says. "But of course, you can't believe everything you hear." So Poe and other administrators decided to see if they could replicate the results in their own school district.
"We piloted the program in three of our schools, with different sets of demographics," Poe says. "One of the schools was a Title I school, the others were not. We wanted to see if that would make a difference."
From At-Risk to Above Grade Level
The one thing that was common to all the kids in this pilot program is that they were deemed "at risk." "We started by working with the lowest quartile group," says Poe, "some were Title I students, some were Special Ed, some were ESL, some were regular education students. But they were all at the lowest mastery of their particular grade."
After 12-18 weeks of using Fast ForWord, "we saw immediate increases in the students' reading performance," Poe recounts. "And the kids continued to make progress even after they stopped using the program."
Mary Anne Rankin, the district's Elementary Technology Resource Teacher, remembers the pilot well. "Upon completing the Reading 4 program, these students were working at a level equal to or above that of their peers who did not go through the program. Those were tremendous gains."
Rankin adds, "Because kids are better able to focus, their math scores are getting better, too."
A Little Encouragement Goes a Long Way.
Rankin feels support and encouragement are critical. "Some schools do a morning newscast, announcing the names of the students who complete one product and are moving up to the next. The kids just love that!"
Parents Are "Ecstatic."
Poe says the school district has had no trouble selling parents on the idea of Fast ForWord software. "They think the program is amazing. They see those tremendous gains, and they are ecstatic about it."
Rankin says, "One parent even came to a board meeting, upset over the fact that their child was going to move from one school to another. They said that was okay, as long as the new school was going to have Fast ForWord!"
"You can't put a price tag on a child for reading.” But we are definitely past the breakeven point now. We are saving money..."
You Can't Put a Price Tag on a Child for Reading.
Four years into the Fast ForWord program, Poe feels that the school district has definitely gotten its money's worth. "You can't put a price tag on a child for reading," he says. "But we are definitely past the break even point now. We are saving money, because we now have children that are at grade level reading that were not reading before, so we don't have to offer them other supplemental services."
But, he notes, "The #1 reason why we purchased the program wasn't about saving money. It was about getting kids to be able to read on grade level, and this is a great instructional tool for achieving that goal."
"You know," he continues, "Fast ForWord has not only brought about higher reading levels and dramatically increased students' self-esteem, but it has boosted children's enthusiasm for learning. We have students who didn't enjoy coming to class before. Now they're eager to come to class, because they can be active participants."