Louisiana district increased fourth grade state test scores and promotion rates, and narrowed achievement gaps after implementing Fast ForWord and Reading Assistant software


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Oakland, Calif. — Feb. 17, 2012 — From 2006 to 2011, the St. Mary Parish Public School System in Centerville, La., posted double-digit gains in fourth grade proficiency levels on the Louisiana Educational Assessment Program (LEAP) tests. Fourth graders who used the Fast ForWord® and Reading Assistant™ family of educational software products from Scientific Learning Corp. (NASDAQ:SCIL) improved their LEAP test scores in English language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies, according to a new five-year longitudinal study. The district also improved its eighth grade LEAP scores, increased its fourth grade promotion rates, reduced the number of students requiring special education services, and narrowed the achievement gap.

Fast ForWord and Reading Assistant software

During the 2006-2007 school year, the St. Mary Parish Public School System started school-wide use of the Fast ForWord products at eight elementary schools that were in Academic Assistance, a designation for schools that fail to improve sufficiently. In 2008, for the first time in a decade, the district exceeded the state average for the percentage of initial testing fourth graders reading at or above the Basic level on the LEAP test. During the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 school years, the Fast ForWord program was extended to the rest of the district, and the schools began using Reading Assistant software.

“In five years, our fourth grade students have made remarkable gains, outpacing their state counterparts in English language arts as well as math and science,” said Superintendent Donald W. Aguillard, Ph.D. “Fewer fourth graders are struggling below grade level and more students are meeting promotional standards than ever before. Across the curriculum, students are clearly benefitting from our continuing efforts to help them improve their reading and learning ability through the Fast ForWord and Reading Assistant programs.”

Improved LEAP scores — elementary and middle schools

From 2006 to 2011, the percentage of fourth graders who were initial testers and performing at or above Basic on the LEAP test rose from 55 percent to 81 percent in English language arts, from 59 to 80 percent in math, from 53 to 69 percent in science, and from 59 to 69 percent in social studies. From 2008 to 2011, eighth grade proficiency levels on the LEAP increased from 58 percent to 64 percent in English language arts, from 54 to 59 percent in science, and from 54 to 62 percent in social studies.

Increased promotion rate — general education and special education

In addition, the promotion rate for fourth graders improved from 65 percent in 2006 to 87 percent in 2011, with increases for both general education and special education students. The percentage of general education students meeting the promotional standards improved from 67 percent to 90 percent, while the special education fourth grade promotion rate improved from 33 percent to 66 percent.

During this five-year period, the number of students needing special education services (not including students identified as gifted and talented) decreased by 17 percent across the district.

Narrowing the achievement gap

Since the elementary and middle schools started using the Fast ForWord products, St. Mary Parish has also made progress toward closing the achievement gap between white students and black students who, respectively, comprise 48 percent and 46 percent of the student population. In the elementary schools, the achievement gaps in English language arts and math were nearly cut in half between 2006 and 2011, with a reduction in gap size of 10 percentage points in English language arts and 12 percentage points in math. In the middle schools, the gap was reduced by 4 percentage points in English language arts and in math.

Improved District Performance Score

Students’ improvements have impacted St. Mary Parish’s overall performance with its District Performance Score increasing from 80.0 in 2006 to 96.7 in 2011. This improvement of 16.7 points is nearly double the increase in the State Baseline School Performance Score, which improved 8.8 points during that same time.

Results report

Results of the five-year longitudinal study can be seen at: http://www.scilearn.com/alldocs/rsrch/sbr/30530stmaryparishedurpt.pdf

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