Chesapeake, OH

Collins Career Center Improves Ohio Graduation Test Scores Across the Curriculum

The Fast ForWord program helps in every subject area because it enhances students’ ability to read. We’re seeing a difference in mathematics, for example, because it’s improved students ability to read extended-response questions, which are large part of OGT (Ohio Graduation Tests).

Stephen Dodgion

Collins Career Center implements Scientific Learning Fast ForWord® and Reading Assistant® products to help struggling readers strengthen their brain processing and literacy skills. Since 2008, students have improved their reading skill levels and achieved significant gains on the Ohio Graduation Tests (OGT) in reading, writing, mathematics, science and social studies. In 2009, students who used the Fast ForWord program achieved a 10-to-1 gain over their peers on all five tests of the OGT.

District Statistics

  • School District: Lawrence County Joint Vocational School District
  • Schools: Collins Career Center
  • Number of Students: 527
  • Grades: 11-12
  • Population: 98% Caucasian, 1% African-American, 1% Multiracial, 67% free/reduced lunch, 31% special education
  • Assessment tool: Ohio Graduation Tests (OGT)
  • School Structure: rural


  • Economically disadvantaged community with low literacy rates
  • Students with significant academic gaps in reading
  • Low state test scores

Collins Career Center is a vocational school for 11th and 12th graders in rural Chesapeake, Ohio. Part of the Lawrence County Joint Vocational School District, the school’s career technical programs provide students with multiple pathways to employment or post-secondary education.

“In Lawrence County, the poverty rate is high and the literacy rate is low,” said Dan Harmon, Fast ForWord coordinator at Collins Career Center. “Although our school serves 11th and 12th grade, students come to us with an average reading level between sixth and seventh grade. We wanted to find a solution to help students raise their reading levels and their confidence.”


Collins Career Center began using the Fast ForWord program during the 2007-08 school year, and added Reading Assistant software in 2009.

“Our goals with the Fast ForWord and Reading Assistant programs are to strengthen students’ brain processing and literacy skills, and to have every student reading at grade level,” said Harmon.

Fast ForWord

Fast ForWord is a series of educational software products that accelerate learning by developing the brain to process more efficiently. The software’s intensive, adaptive exercises build brain fitness in the areas of memory, attention, processing, and sequencing — cognitive skills essential for learning and reading success.

In Collins Career Center’s first year of implementation, specific students were selected to work on the Fast ForWord software to improve their reading skills. During the 2008-09 school year, the program was expanded to all students who had an individualized education plan (IEP) or who were referred by a teacher.

“That year, we were able to run 125 students through the program and that’s when we saw some amazing results. Students who used the Fast ForWord program raised their OGT scores by an average of 10 points per test. Students who didn’t use the program raised their scores by an average of eight-tenths of one point. That’s a 10-to-1 difference. That's why we expanded our implementation to provide Fast ForWord to every student in the school,” said Harmon.

“I was flabbergasted at how quickly we were able to move students forward in their reading ability and comprehension after purchasing the Fast ForWord program,” said Stephen Dodgion, superintendent of the Lawrence County Joint Vocational School District. “We were so excited about the results, we felt we needed to get the software to every student on this campus. Our scores have gone up considerably and I feel strongly that it is a result of this software.”

During the 2009-10 school year, all students began using the Fast ForWord program 30 minutes a day in their English or social studies class. “This ensures we reach every student. Because we’re on block schedules, students can spend half an hour on Fast ForWord, and then 50 minutes on regular classroom instruction,” said Harmon.

Harmon monitors each student’s progress with Fast ForWord’s Progress Tracker, an online data analysis and reporting tool, and shares the data with teachers.

“The Fast ForWord program fits in really well with our curriculum,” said Harmon. “The intensity of the program makes it different from other interventions. Students know when they sit down to work on Fast ForWord that nothing is going to interrupt them.  With other intervention programs I've seen, there are a lot of disruptions and not as much work gets done. Students really like the Fast ForWord program. It helps them build confidence. When students are confident and feel good about themselves, you know they’re going to do better.”

“The Fast ForWord program is also different from other programs in terms of how quickly we see results,” said Dodgion. “We see results within 20 days. That’s not only great for us, but it does wonders for students’ confidence. You can see students’ eyes light up when they realize we finally have something that’s going to help them. We’ve seen students’ lives turn around as a result of the skills they’ve learned and the confidence they’ve developed because of this software.”

Harmon recalled a few instances where the Fast ForWord program had made a significant impact with individual students. “This program has been phenomenal for so many kids,” he said. “We have one student whose reading level was a little higher than most of our students, but he had a behavior problem. When he first started working with the Fast ForWord program, he was one of the few students who said, ‘I don’t know why I’m in here.’ So we explained to him how the program works. Once he got through the first two programs, he said, ‘This is the best thing I've ever done.’ Now he almost sprints from his previous class to get to Fast ForWord. He just scored at the 12th grade, ninth month level on his most recent reading test. His reading has shot up the chart, and his behavior and confidence have improved. He even entered the talent show and sang a song — and he’s a kid you never would have thought would be interested in that.” 

Harmon relayed the story of another student, a football player, who struggled with his reading and his grades overall. “There’s a possibility this student can get a football scholarship, but he has to bring his academic performance up. He works on Fast ForWord 30 minutes a day, and then works on Reading Assistant. He started at a fourth grade reading level and he’s now at the eighth grade level. He still has a way to go, but he’s improving and he knows it. He says, ‘I know this area is where I'm getting better, and these are the areas I need to work on if I want to make it to college and play football.’ He works everyday at trying to become a better student and improving the skills he knows he needs to be successful,” he said.

Reading Assistant

At Collins Career Center, selected students also work on Reading Assistant 20 to 30 minutes a day, every other day, in the computer lab. Reading Assistant combines advanced speech recognition technology with scientifically-based interventions to help students strengthen reading fluency, vocabulary and comprehension.

“We added Reading Assistant this year to help students strengthen their reading fluency,” said Harmon. “It’s just like working one-on-one with a teacher. Student like that they can work at their own pace, and that no one is rushing them or yelling at them.”

The Reading Assistant software uses research-validated speech recognition technology to “listen” to each child as he or she reads aloud. Readers are helped with interactive resources, immediate feedback on errors, and private playback. The software also maintains performance records and the corresponding audio of each reading session for review by the student and teacher.

 “We’re already seeing gains in students’ fluency rates,” said Harmon. “Reading Progress Indicator shows that students’ fluency rates have gone up an average of 11 words per minute. That means if students are taking the OGT, over 120 minutes they can cover many more questions without getting frustrated. That’s huge.”


  • Improved reading skill levels
  • Improved OGT scores across the curriculum

With the Fast ForWord and Reading Assistant programs, students have raised their reading levels and achieved significant gains on the OGT. After working on the Fast ForWord products 30 minutes a day for an average of 40 sessions, students who showed reading gains improved their reading grade level an average of one year and two months on the program’s Reading Progress Indicator (RPI) assessment.

In addition, in 2009, students who used the Fast ForWord software achieved greater gains in their OGT scores than students who did not use the program. For example, students gained an average of 6.3 points in reading and 15.2 points in writing on the OGT. In contrast, students who did not use the program decreased 2.1 points in reading and increased only 3.8 points in writing. Fast ForWord students also achieved greater gains in math, science and social studies.

Dodgion, too, has seen improvements across the curriculum. “The Fast ForWord program helps in every subject area because it enhances students’ ability to read. We’re seeing a difference in mathematics, for example, because it’s improved students ability to read extended-response questions, which are large part of OGT.”

Collins Career Center
2009 Ohio Graduation Tests
Student Gains (11th and 12th graders)
 Fast ForWord StudentsNon-Fast ForWord Students
Social Studies11.72.4

Harmon agrees. “Without a doubt, Fast ForWord is having an effect on students,” he said. “Students understand that when they create those neural connections in their brains, they’re going to catch more of information that’s being presented to them, whether it’s in English class or science class. Now, when they’re reading they can better process and remember information. They pay more attention in class and are less restless. So many teachers tell us, ‘You know, this kid is not the problem he used to be.’ That’s because they’re paying attention, taking in more information, and understanding it better. Students also believe in themselves more.”

“A big reason students drop out of school is because they can’t read,” added Dodgion. “When they get into the upper grades, they don’t want to reveal to other students or to their teachers that they can’t read. The Fast ForWord and Reading Assistant programs keep kids in school who might otherwise give up. Our graduation rate was good to begin with and it continues to increase.”

Looking Ahead

In spring 2010, the Collins Career Center applied for an Investing in Innovation (i3) grant to expand the Fast ForWord and Reading Assistant programs to every school in Lawrence County.

“My goal is within the next 10 years is to have every child reading on grade level. It is my hope we can provide these programs for every school in our district, beginning at kindergarten and going all the way up through 12th grade,” said Harmon.

Dodgion, too, would like to make the programs available to every student in the county. “Not only is literacy an issue, but we have an extremely high rate of poverty in our county,” he said. “If you’re going to reverse that cycle, you have to educate young people. We’re hoping to do that with these programs if we’re awarded this grant.”

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