- School District: Jackson County School District
- Number of Schools: 4
- Number of Students: 8,431
- Grades: K through 12
- Population: ELL Students less than 1%; Students with IEPs over 9%; Students eligible for free or reduced price meals over 67%
- Assessment tool: MCT
- School Structure: Rural
Rucks Robinson. Tonya Green. Two administrators who helped turn four schools around.
In 2003, a school superintendent in Jackson County, Mississippi, began a startling turnaround born of frustration and concern. Rucks Robinson felt a subgroup in his district displayed an alarming lack of progress. "We weren't reaching a group of children, simply put. Our IEP group was not getting the help they deserved."
So Robinson paired with Tonya Green, director of Special Education for the district, and sparked change with an early intervention strategy—Fast ForWord® software—in four Jackson County schools that were not meeting their AYP goals.
Bridging the gap between the classroom and a child's mind.
As Green remembers it, "We identified the students that were scoring below basic that we felt needed a boost. There was a disconnect between the classroom learning environment and the processing going on in a child's mind."
Robinson explains, "In Mississippi, we test from the second to the eighth grade on the Mississippi Curriculum Test. Every year we analyze the results...the four categories are Minimum, Basic, Proficient, and Advanced. Our goal is to get everybody in Proficient and Advanced categories."
After targeting the lowest-performing students in those first four schools with Fast ForWord products—in particular, Robinson feels, the Language product was the most critical—the results were personally and professionally rewarding. "After going through the Fast ForWord product, all four of those schools not only made AYP, but they had mastery of objectives," says Robinson. "It was a fantastic demonstration of what can be done."
New test scores and new self-esteem.
Robinson and Green remember the personal successes they began to witness with Fast ForWord software. "A young lady that participated wrote a letter to the principal and explained that it was the first time in her life that she had actually passed a 9-weeks test," Robinson says. "And she made an 85 on her test. She felt that it was due to this Fast ForWord program that Miss Green had put her in."
Tonya Green recalls another student at a lower elementary school that wrote a letter to the principal "saying that her friend was in this program called Fast ForWord, and what did she need to do to get in?" Green says that Fast ForWord products have definitely helped to keep students out of Special Education who really just needed an intervention strategy. "We use it in our 3-tier models," she says. "And it is working very well."
"After just three weeks, we had teachers telling us they saw a difference in behavior in the classrooms."
"A critical piece of the puzzle."
Thanks to the good results with Fast ForWord software, Jackson County School District has implemented an intervention strategy in all nine of their K-8 schools. "We saw the results almost immediately with most of the kids," says Green. "After just three weeks, we had teachers telling us they saw a difference in behavior in the classrooms. And when the pilot program was finished, a team of principals was asking for Fast ForWord in their own schools. Word spread fast."
Green says that she "absolutely" would recommend Fast ForWord software to other school districts. "And I do, all the time," she adds. Superintendent Robinson claims that Fast ForWord software was "a critical piece of the puzzle coming together.” He says, “It wasn't the only answer, but the answer would not have been complete without this product, and we know it.”