Professional Development: Blog

The Science of Learning

September 2, 2010
79% of ELL Students Increase Proficiency by One or More Levels

During the 2008 – 2009 school year, a group of kindergarten through sixth-grade students used the Fast ForWord® products. All participants were English language learners. Participants used products from both the Fast ForWord Language and Fast ForWord Reading series. Kindergartners typically started with the Fast ForWord Language Basics product and then progressed through Fast ForWord Reading Prep and Fast ForWord Reading Level 1 while students in first grade and above started with the Fast ForWord Language product, and then progressed through Fast ForWord Language to Reading followed by the Reading product.  On average, students used the products for 54 days across a 3½ month period. The Arizona English Language Learner Assessment, abbreviated as AZELLA, is used to determine the English language proficiency of Arizona K-12 students whose primary home language is other than English. AZELLA results include a composite proficiency level score and separate subtest scores for Listening, Speaking, Reading, and Total Writing. Scores are reported in terms of scaled scores and proficiency levels. The five proficiency levels of the AZELLA are Pre-Emergent, Emergent, Basic, Intermediate, and Proficient. Students in this study were assessed on the AZELLA in the fall, prior to using Fast ForWord products, and again in the spring, after using the products. Seventy-nine percent of the students increased their proficiency by one or more levels. According to a study through the Arizona Department of Education, students typically have a difficult time moving beyond the Intermediate level, with 38% moving to Proficient after one year, and 46% moving to Proficient after two years.  After using the Fast ForWord products, 68% of the Intermediate students reached the Proficient level.  In fact, 22% of the students who were initially at Basic reached Proficient.

July 13, 2010
The Results of Fast ForWord Use at the Westfield Washington Schools in Indiana

The Westfield Washington Schools are located just north of Indianapolis, in Indiana. During the 2007 - 2008 school year, the Westfield Intermediate School implemented Fast ForWord products. For this study, the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) were used as a pre- and post-test. The MAP assesses language arts, math, and reading skills. Ninety-eight students used the Fast ForWord products and had MAP scores that could serve as pre- and post-tests. School personnel administered the assessment and then reported scores to Scientific Learning for analysis. On average, students used the products over a period of six months. The majority of students used three or more Fast ForWord products, starting on the Fast ForWord Literacy product, then advancing to the Literacy Advanced product, and then on to one or more Fast ForWord Reading products. MAP scores are reported in terms of RIT scores, which indicate a student’s achievement level within a specific subject. To provide a performance comparison, participants’ gains were compared to the student’s expected gains, which were based upon RIT growth norms in the three subject areas of language arts, math, and reading. Students showed exciting results and exceeded the expected RIT growth norms. Students who used Fast ForWord products made 7 points of RIT growth in language arts, which is 67% greater than the expected growth of 4.2 points. Gains of 10.1 points were seen in math for the Fast ForWord participants, which is 35% greater than the expected growth. Students gained 8.8 points in reading, which is nearly double the expected 4.5 points growth. The differences between the gain scores and the expected gain scores were statistically significant in all three subject areas. These results suggest that using the Fast ForWord products strengthened the students’ foundational skills and better positioned them to benefit from the classroom curriculum.

February 4, 2010
Are "Smart" Kids Born Smart?

Did you ever know someone that others referred to as a “brain”? It is a term most commonly used in a school environment referring to a top student. Often the “brain” did not seem to have to work hard at school; he or she was viewed as naturally intelligent, knowledgeable in many subjects, liked by teachers and admired by fellow students. Did you ever wonder how that person got that way? Most likely you thought, as did most experts in psychology, the field that assesses intelligence, that he or she was just “born” smart.  Until very recently, intelligence was viewed as a fixed innate capacity, a genetic gift from mom and dad that more or less propelled a child on their way to success in school then ultimately success in life. But it turns out, that intelligence is not as fixed as was previously thought nor is it preset by a person’s genetic inheritance.  There are many variables that affect intelligence as it is measured by tests, measured in school, and measured in life.   Neuroscience: nature vs nurture Current neuroscience research suggests that most newborn infants are born with the potential to achieve in many cognitive areas. There will be some genetic predispositions, but the child’s brain is extraordinarily malleable and “teachable”. One could say that the job of the infant brain is to figure out, from what is going on around him or her, what skills and sensory abilities it will be important to master. Once the basics are established the child’s brain will set out on a path to become an expert in those areas.  By stimulating their child in certain ways, parents set the stage for the infant brain to begin a developmental trajectory that will influence what the child becomes “smart” at – science, math, […]

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