Professional Development: Blog

The Science of Learning

August 28, 2012
21st Century Learning: Preparing Students Today

Today, we live in a world dominated by technology. Our interactions with the world and with one another are mediated by computers, tablets and smart phones. The answer to practically any question you might have, at any moment, is a few keystrokes and fractions of a second away. In the same way that print changed how humans perceive information, now technology has once again flipped the world on its head. “We should seriously consider the claim that we are now undergoing one of the most significant technological revolutions for education since the progression from oral to print and book based teaching.” -Dr. Douglas Kellner, UCLA, New Media and New Literacies: Reconstructing Education for the New Millennium Preparing students for today’s world demands that education be delivered in a vastly different manner than what we see today in U.S. schools. In this world where information creation and discovery are taking place faster than we can bring that information to our classrooms, true 21st century learning must involve more than information literacy alone. Certainly, the traditional “3 Rs” – a shorthand way to talk about traditional content areas like reading, writing and arithmetic – play a core role in the 21st century classroom. (For the sake of argument, let’s have the 3 Rs include other traditional content domains like social studies and history.) But in this new world, those “content domains” become avenues for imparting a whole array of 21st century skills – skills that will allow students to function, learn and adapt throughout life in this post-modern world. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills(P21), one of a number of organizations advocating for a revamped educational system, says that for our young people to be able to compete in the global economy, they need more than the 3 Rs; a new “4 […]

January 26, 2012
Helping Low-SES Students Thrive

Studies and statistics have clearly demonstrated the link between low achievement and low socioeconomic status or SES. Still, studies have also shown that given the right conditions, every student – including those from less fortunate circumstances – have the opportunity to succeed. Not only that, but the kinds of changes that can increase achievement are available to every household, regardless of SES. Factors linked to low-SES have been shown to have an effect upon readiness for school and achievement once a child has entered school. Circumstances include a household’s lack of financial wherewithal to devote to learning resources such as books, supplies and computers. Other contributing factors include lack of parental involvement; only 36% of low SES parents read to their kindergartners, compared to 62% in the highest SES students (Coley, 2002). In addition, parents of low SES households tend to be dual-income or single parent families who have limited time and energy at home to devote to meaningful engagement with their children. That said, many successful students do come from low-SES homes. While some of this success can be attributed to the simple innate resiliency and drive arising from within the student, research has been able to tease out a number of common factors in such homes, where certain practices are clearly contributing to student success.  Factors for Success In 2006, Allison Milne and Lee Plourde studied this population, selecting six second-grade students from a Central Washington elementary school who came from low-SES homes but were also high achievers. While the number of students in the study was limited, Milne and Plourde outline a number of common factors in their homes that likely contributed to their success: Educational content in the home:In all households, these students as early learners all had access to learning materials, such as books, writing […]

September 13, 2011
The Great Homework Debate: Is Homework Helpful or Harmful to Students?

Sometimes, I feel as if I have been doing homework my entire life.  As a child growing up, I moved from worksheets, dioramas and book reports to essays, major projects and term papers.  When I began teaching, I had lessons to prepare and my students’ homework became my homework for grading.  (And, on occasion, it was quite obvious that I was putting a bit more effort into MY homework than they put into theirs!)  As my children reached school age, “Mom’s rules” on homework included:  homework comes first, don’t wait until the last minute on a project, etc.  But somehow their homework still bled over into my life… So, how important is this icon of education?  Is homework helpful or harmful?  Is it something that, as many students claim, just eats up their time and energy for no real purpose?  Do we, as educators, need new practices that move away from homework or are we simply afraid to change, stuck on those famous eight words, “But, we’ve never done it that way before…”? In support of the view of homework as helpful, many educators stress that specifically aligning homework to the learning task is part of the strategy for building understanding.  The website Focus on Effectiveness cites several studies showing that in elementary school, homework helps build learning and study habits (Cooper, 1989; Cooper, Lindsay, Nye, & Greathouse, 1998; Gorges & Elliot, 1999).  Also noted is the point that 30 minutes of daily homework in high school can increase a student’s GPA up to half a point (Keith 1992).  Many students need time and experience to develop the study habits that support learning, and homework can provide that as well as the ability to cope with mistakes and difficulty (Bempechat, 2004).  Those teachers who take the time to add instructive […]

July 21, 2011
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 […]

July 20, 2011
Scientific Learning to Host Brain Summit in Conjunction with Building Learning Communities Conference in Boston

Dr. William Jenkins and Sherrelle Walker will present one-day summit on how brain fitness can help students improve one to two years in reading levels in eight to 12 weeks 7/20/11 Media Contact: Jessica LindlSenior Vice President, Marketing and Product ManagementScientific Learning Corporation(510) [email protected] Investor Contact: Bob FellerChief Financial OfficerScientific Learning Corporation(510) [email protected] Oakland, Calif. — July 20, 2011 — Scientific Learning Corp. (NASDAQ:SCIL), makers of the Fast ForWord® and Reading Assistant™ family of products, will host a New Science of Learning Brain Summit at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel & Towers on July 26. The Brain Summit is being held in coordination with the Building Learning Communities (BLC) Conference, sponsored by November Learning. The BLC conference, which is designed to have an immediate and long range impact on improving teaching and learning, will be held at the same hotel in downtown Boston with pre-conference sessions July 24-26 and main conference sessions July 27-29. At the Brain Summit, Scientific Learning’s founder and chief scientific officer, Dr. William Jenkins, and chief education officer, Sherrelle Walker, will discuss how current neuroscience research is contributing to viable, innovative and impactful solutions for improving academic performance. They will describe the importance of brain fitness in education and explain how students can exercise their brains to overcome literacy challenges and improve their capacity to learn. Participants will learn how schools can accelerate learning for students of diverse ages and ability levels by combining good teaching, good content, and exercises that stimulate the brain to build brain fitness in the areas of English language arts and reading. In the Boston area, school districts such as Everett Public Schools, an urban district located a few miles north of Boston, are realizing positive results by helping students build brain fitness with the Fast ForWord and Reading Assistant programs from Scientific Learning. After participating in the programs in 2009-10, elementary and […]

May 12, 2011
68% of Students Improve MEPA Proficiency Significantly after Fast ForWord®

This study looked at 118 English Language Learner students who used Fast ForWord® products in the 2009-2010 school year from Everett Public Schools in Everett, MA.  A small minority of the students also used the Fast ForWord products in the previous 2008-2009 school year. These students were tested in both 2009 and 2010 with the Massachusetts English Proficiency Assessment, or the “MEPA” for short.  The impact of Fast ForWord products was dramatic and positive.  Following Fast ForWord participation, students averaged about 15 and a half scaled score points of improvement between 2009 and 2010.   In addition, no student scored at proficiency level 1 (the lowest proficiency level) after using Fast ForWord products.  On the other end of the spectrum, the number of students in the top two proficiency levels (levels 4 and 5) more than doubled, from 33 to 74 students.  Finally, 68% of participants improved one or more proficiency levels; 26% maintained the same proficiency level they had in 2009; while only 6% dropped a level.  This shift is statistically significant.

April 20, 2011
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.

March 3, 2011
Truth in Numbers: School Achieves Statistically Significant Improvements on TAKS

In the 2008-2009 school year, selected students at Sam Houston Elementary School in the Grand Prairie Independent School District, TX, worked with the Reading Assistant software. To evaluate the impact of this intervention, the school conducted an observational study using scores from the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, or “TAKS,” the annual state assessment. Administered in the spring of each year, students throughout Texas take the TAKS, which measures progress against the state’s curricular standards. On average, the study students worked with the Reading Assistant software for a total of two and a half hours over a 27-day period. The outcomes measure used for the study was the reading portion of the TAKS. Assessment results were reported in Lexile scores, which provide a continuous scale for tracking students’ reading achievement over time. Before and after scores were available for 18 fifth graders who had worked with the software: Prior to using Reading Assistant, many of these students were struggling readers. Only 56% of study participants met the state standard for reading proficiency in 2008. The group’s average reading level was more than a year below what it should have been for their grade. After using Reading Assistant, the percentage of students who met the Texas state standard for reading proficiency increased from 56% to 78%. The group’s average Lexile score went up from 541 before using the software to 753 after using the software. The study group showed statistically significant gains in both reading score and passing rate, suggesting that guided oral reading practice with Reading Assistant had a dramatic impact on reading achievement. Reading Assistant software combines advanced speech recognition technology with research-based interventions to function as a personal tutor for guided oral reading practice.

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