- School District: Stamford
- Number of Schools: 21
- Number of Students: 15,307
- Grades: Pre-K to 12
- Population: ELL Students 14%; Students with IEPs 11%
- Assessment tool: CTOPP, DRA
- School Structure: Urban
How one school district saved $250,000 in one year using Fast ForWord® software.
Underachieving students. Inadequate budgets. State- and federal-mandated learning requirements. Demanding and litigious parents.
School districts across America today are faced with a staggering array of problems and challenges. School administrators are constantly on the lookout for any new programs or technologies that can raise test scores, get underachieving students on a track for learning, and win over parents.
So when several school psychologists at the Stamford City School District in Fairfield County, Connecticut, began telling former Special Education Director, Carol LaBruno, about Fast ForWord software, she was intrigued.
"I trusted my staff," says the now retired LaBruno, "But still, I wanted to start small. So at first we did a pilot program in the summer schools only."
When summer school was finished, and all of the pre- and post-tests were done LaBruno took one look at the results and couldn't believe her eyes. The students' DRPs had jumped dramatically.
"I saw right away this was a tool that we could use throughout the district to get real results. So I made plans to get Fast ForWord products into the high schools and the middle schools."
Special Ed Came First.
LaBruno wasn't entirely successful in selling the idea of Fast ForWord software district-wide, but she didn't give up. She knew she just needed further proof of its effectiveness, so she turned her efforts to the district's Special Education program.
"We ran it after school," she says, "as a Planning and Placement Team (PPT) recommendation for Special Ed kids only. I wouldn't necessarily exclude any General Ed kids from the program, but we pretty much kept it 99.9% Special Ed students."
From 2003 - 2004, 70 students with an average grade level of 4.3 used the Fast ForWord Language product. The results: on average, they gained one-half standard deviation in phonological awareness and phonological memory—a dramatic gain.
Before using Fast ForWord Language software, students were performing in the low or below average range in the Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing (CTOPP).
After Fast ForWord participation, most students had moved into the average range for all three CTOPP subtests that were administered.
With good test scores to back her up, LaBruno began installing Fast ForWord software in many schools across her district. The district now has over 200 kids on Fast ForWord products, and it is helping their reading dramatically."
“If a parent comes along and says, 'My kid can't read,' you need to have an answer. And this is a product we could definitely promote."
Small Investment, Big Cost Savings.
Higher test scores make everyone happy, but no one more so than parents. And when parents are happy, schools save money.
"I would say that in the last year alone, the school district saved at least $250,000 using this product," says LaBruno. "Let me explain. As Director of Special Education, you have to have exquisite negotiation skills. If a parent comes along and says, 'My kid can't read,' you need to have an answer. And this is a product we could definitely promote."
LaBruno estimates that in her last year at Stamford, Fast ForWord products kept her school district out of five to eight due process cases.
"We just told the parents, if it doesn't work, come back and tell us about it. And we didn't hear from them. In my last 15 months with the district, we had no due process cases. This was amazing."
Looking To The Future.
Until her last day on the job earlier this year, LaBruno continued to expand Fast ForWord products throughout the school district, and educators there are very much looking forward to the long-range effects.
"I happen to think the reading programs are fabulous," LaBruno says, "and from what I've seen, I'm anticipating that when the kids complete the reading programs, their Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT) scores are likely to soar."
La Bruno also installed Fast ForWord products at the autistic program in one of Stamford's elementary schools." I have high expectations for that as well," she says.