- School District: Mexico School District
- Number of Schools: 6
- Number of Students: 2,393
- Grades: KG - 12
- Population: Students Predominantly Caucasian; Students eligible for free or reduced priced meals over 44%
- Assessment tool: Gates-MacGinitie
- School Structure: Rural
Ending teacher and student frustration in the Mexico, Missouri School District.
If you're an assistant superintendent of schools, and your teachers come to you and say, "I'm teaching the same thing over and over and over again, and a lot of my kids just aren't getting it," what do you do?
Of course, you can tell your teachers to keep trying and not give up. Or you can do what Tina Woolsey, Assistant Superintendent of the Mexico School District in Mexico, Missouri did: begin implementing a neuroscience-based learning intervention product like Fast ForWord software in all of your district's schools.
"We're making an effort to bring all of our students up to the level of being able to receive the instruction we're giving them in the classroom," she explained. "That's the number one reason why I was sold on Fast ForWord."
"The kids themselves said things like, 'I can hear better,' and 'It's easier for me to pay attention.' "
Brain summits lead to a no-brainer decision.
Sometime during the 2005-2006 school year, Tina recalled receiving some information about a Scientific Learning brain summit in Columbia, Missouri. "We're only about 40 minutes away from Columbia, so I went," she said.
Impressed with what she saw, she nevertheless didn't take action right away. "I got busy, you know how that happens. But then I got an invitation to a bigger brain summit in Chicago, and I decided this was important enough for me to go."
Woolsey was so impressed with what she heard and saw in Chicago that she came back and made a presentation to the Mexico School Board, which quickly made the decision to purchase Fast ForWord software.
Although they may have waited to buy it, the school district didn't waste any time in implementing Fast ForWord products. "This past summer [of 2006], we put a large percentage of our 3rd and 4th graders through it," Woolsey remembered, "as well as over 40 students in our junior high school."
The district used Gates-MacGinitie tests to identify students who had the greatest needs. "Originally," Woolsey said, "the plan was to put all of our summer school students through it, but we only had four weeks, a very short protocol. So we kept it to a minimum."
Growth and improvement right from the start.
Woolsey recalled that "I got a very positive report from the junior high school pretty quickly. The kids themselves said things like, 'I can hear better,' and 'It's easier for me to pay attention.' "
Melanie Richter, the Fast ForWord Coordinator for the school district, got lots of feedback from the coaches who were working with the students. "For example," she said, "there was one little boy who struggled and struggled with Circus Sequence. We finally gave him an auditory test and realized he wasn't able to hear very well! No one had diagnosed this before, but once we did, we saw an amazing change." Richter says she got reports from the coaches that indicated the students were really enjoying their lab time. "One said, 'I'm amazed at the three groups we're running. No one has missed a day. Everyone is working really hard. They immediately come in and get busy.'"
"[The students] have more confidence in reading books, and they've become more receptive to reading in general."
Some of the children, Richter reports, are already showing signs of improvement in that "They have more confidence in reading books, and they've become more receptive to reading in general." For the first time, she says, many students voluntarily want to do additional reading.
Although this is only the first year of implementation in the school district, the Fast ForWord software program has been expanded to an after-school tutoring program for junior high and high school students, as well as all of the elementary schools. "We have a large number of students who are in Fast ForWord; I believe it's 233 right now," says Woolsey, "in 4th grade through high school."
Keeping those synapses working.
After some early confusion about how to keep parents informed, Richter says the district settled on sending Fast ForWord Progress Reports to them on a regular basis. "The confusion was around how to show progress," she said. "Obviously, a kid doesn't get a grade on this, and everyone should be passing." Between the Progress Tracker reports and discussions at parent-teacher conferences, Richter said, "the parents have been really positive about the program."
Although hard data has yet to be accumulated, (the Gates-MacGinitie test will be re-administered at the end of the 2006-2007 school year), Richter was impressed enough with what she was seeing and hearing that she is using Fast ForWord software on herself. "I am doing the middle and high school program," she says, "to get a good handle on what it is the kids are working on." And, she reports, "I think it really does work on your memory and your attention. I am noticing that in myself."
Both Woolsey and Richter state unequivocally that they would recommend Fast ForWord products to other school districts. "I think it's a real opportunity to keep those synapses working and make things happen," Richter said.