Professional Development: Blog

The Science of Learning

November 1, 2017
Why I've Supported Fast ForWord for 20+ Years

Eric Jensen here. If you have struggling readers, lean in and read closely. I am going to give you something worth thousands of dollars for free. Sometimes the things you and I take most for granted are actually among the most valuable. For example, are you a pretty good reader? Even though I used to teach reading, I somehow took it for granted that I read well. But it’s rarely like that for your students. For example, when your students struggle with reading, what are the most likely signals? Obviously, it hurts your school scores, but there’s more. Can you see and feel the discouragement, frustration and even the internalizing of the emotions (“I can’t do this” or “I hate reading”)? When students read poorly, they often generalize it to other subjects (“Maybe I am just dumb”) and most things in school can become overwhelming. That’s painful to watch. I would love to help you with your lowest performing students and there’s a solution that may work for you.  As a former reading teacher and science junkie, I’ve been shouting the praises of the Fast ForWord® reading intervention program for over 20 years. Follow the directions, encourage the students and it flat-out works. Fast ForWord has been validated by more than 50 published studies in peer-reviewed journals and over 250 school studies. I personally know the neuroscientists that developed the program and they are “rock star” pioneers in their field. There’s just one drawback. If you ever shop reading programs around by price, Fast ForWord is nowhere near the cheapest of them all. Unfortunately, when comparing programs, learning leaders (instructional coaches, principals, etc.) often fail to price out the real costs of the alternatives (e.g. using instructional aids, having students held back, tutors and intervention specialists, staff who get burned out, […]

August 23, 2017
We Asked the Fast ForWord Experts About Back to School

  Back to school already?  Our Professional Development Managers (PDMs) spend weeks - months - years(!) on the road working with schools all across the country. We asked these experts their top suggestions, ideas, and tips to make this the best Fast ForWord year ever. Have you tried all these yet?     1. What is the most creative way you have seen to motivate students? Ann and Sheila:  Wall of Fame!   Sheila: I worked with one 2nd grade teacher who displayed the whole solar system and all the planets along a very long hallway, and the students were each represented by a rocket ship so they went from planet to planet as their completion scores went up by 10% increments (the sun was included, as well as the former planet Pluto)!   Joel:  One teacher told me she can get her kids to do anything for a bag of chips.  Andrea:  One of my favorite things is a reward system that takes into account both Fast ForWord and general habits of mind/soft skills. I saw a secondary teacher in Starkville, MS who built structured free time into the class period on a Friday every three weeks or so. To attain this structured free time, students had to be up to date on their CAPSs (no flags), have no misbehavior in class (no infractions), and no disciplinary write-ups from any class (no referrals). I think it’s so cool because many of our students see social gains before they may see numerical/test gains, and this system is a great way to reward those social gains.  2. What’s your TOP piece of advice for schools getting started this fall?  Ann:  Communicate progress and struggles with the students through MySciLEARN reports. Christina:  Strategy! Strategy! Strategy! Take the first week of school to reintroduce Fast ForWord! Remind students of the purpose of Fast ForWord and […]

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 […]

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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