- School District: Seminole Independent School District
- Number of Students: 2,192
- Grades: Pre-K to 12
- Population: ELL students 13%
- Assessment tool: OWLS, Reading Edge, TAAS
- School Structure: Rural
Crusading to impact struggling students and impacting many others along the way.
It all started in 1999, when Doug Harriman, then an elementary school principal in the Seminole Independent School District in Texas, attended the Texas Elementary Principals Association State Convention in Austin.
"I went with a purpose," he said. "That purpose was to look for some kind of program to help the ESL, bilingual and Special Ed kids in my school. Because I knew there were gaps in their education that we were just not filling. We were failing them in some way, and I wanted to fix that."
Harriman found a Scientific Learning booth. "They started talking to me about the plasticity of the brain and how children can learn to learn, and I thought, 'This is exactly what I'm looking for.'"
Immediate Implementation and Immediate Success.
Harriman came back to his school district determined to test the Fast ForWord® software on a small group of students in his own school.
"We started with just 30 students and 3 diagnosticians who ran them through the OWLS (Oral and Written Language Skills) test right before and right after using Fast ForWord. And, after just 6 weeks, we had an average gain of 18 months in oral receptive language skills."
A Custodian Gains a GED—and a New Life.
Soon Harriman became the school district superintendent, and he had a unique opportunity to test Fast ForWord on a very unlikely candidate—a school custodian who had worked in his district for many years. One day he said to her, "Look, you don't have a high school diploma, and we're a school district. We'd like for you to go and get your GED."
The custodian, who was about 40 years old at the time, signed up for the GED program. After just a few classes, she came into Harriman's office in tears, "I just can't do this," she said. "I just can't."
After some gentle questioning from Harriman, she revealed her terrible secret: she couldn't read. Harriman told her that if she were serious about completing her high school diploma, he would help her.
"So," he says, "we put her through Fast ForWord. And, of course, we tested her before and after using the software."
The results stunned Harriman, as well as Debbie Sewell, the Fast ForWord Lab Manager and Coordinator; and Vickie Taylor, the Campus Tech Specialist.
"Prior to using Fast ForWord," Taylor says, "her oral receptive skills were at 9 years, 4 months. After using Fast ForWord Language, she was at 19 years, 6 months. In just six weeks!"
Harriman credits Fast ForWord software with raising test scores for the entire school district.
Better Attention, Better Memory, Better Attitude.
Harriman has seen major changes in children using the products. " For example," he says, "kids who before could not memorize the multiplication tables suddenly had it click into place, and they could do it. Their short- and long-term memories had improved. We saw self-esteem go up, too."
Taylor says, "We have one kid who spent all of last year in school suspension. He started out this year in suspension, too. But after we put him through Fast ForWord, he has not been in school suspension for the last 36 weeks. He finally believes in himself!"
Spreading the Word to Other School Districts.
At this point, literally every child in the Seminole Independent School District—from ESL and Special Ed kids to Gifted and Talented ones, has had at least one round of using Fast ForWord products. Harriman credits Fast ForWord software with raising test scores for the entire school district.
"Everyone's happy about this," he says. "The parents are happy. The teachers are happy. I haven't heard any negatives from anyone. And, he adds, “I’ve been on a crusade to get the word out. One trip to my school district convinces them that it’s well worth the investment.”