Hicksville Elementary School implements the Fast ForWord program to accelerate learning for all students in kindergarten through grade six. Since 2006, students have achieved significant gains on the Ohio Achievement Assessments (OAA) in reading, and the school has raised its designation from “Effective” to “Excellent” to “Excellent with Distinction.”
Hicksville Exempted Village School District is located in northwest Ohio in the village of Hicksville, which is home to nearly 4,000 residents. The rural district serves 1,045 students in one elementary school and one middle/high school. More than 20 percent of the district’s students receive special education services, which is significantly higher than the national average of 13.5 percent.
“Our special education population is very high. We also have a high poverty rate, and many students move in and out of the district,” said Claudia Winn, assistant principal of Hicksville Elementary School. “We were looking for a program to help close achievement gaps and to give students a boost across a multitude of skills.”
In 2005, Hicksville Elementary was awarded a grant from OhioReads, a program developed to improve students’ reading skills. “I joined the district while it was in the implementation stage of OhioReads. I brought in samples of reading software that had been suggested as part of the grant. Teachers went through the programs but weren’t happy with them,” said Winn. “I had used the Fast ForWord program in my previous district, so brought it in to show the teachers. After seeing what Fast ForWord could do, they opted to try that instead.”
In 2005-06, administrators decided to pilot the Fast ForWord program with selected students in grades five and six. Fast ForWord is a family of educational software products that accelerate learning by applying proven research on how the brain learns. The products can improve student achievement by one to two years in as little as eight to 12 weeks.
As part of the pilot, students’ reading ability was assessed with the Gates-MacGinitie Reading Tests before and after using the Fast ForWord program. On average, students gained nearly a year in comprehension skills in just four months.
“Although the essence of the OhioReads grant was reading intervention, there is much more to the Fast ForWord program,” said Winn. “Our goal is to improve the performance of all students, whether they are working at, above or below the proficient level in reading. We also want to bridge the gap between the haves and the have-nots. In our district, many students do not have the opportunity to attend preschool, which slows their growth in kindergarten. We want to give every student the boost they need to succeed.”
Today, all students in kindergarten through sixth grade participate in the Fast ForWord program. At the beginning of the school year, each teacher chooses a 30, 40 or 50 minute protocol. In kindergarten through second grade, students work on the Fast ForWord program in the computer lab. In third through sixth grade, classes share four mobile laptop carts.
Classroom teachers closely monitor students’ progress with Progress Tracker, an online data analysis and reporting tool. “Progress Tracker is very valuable,” said Winn. “It allows us to see which students are doing well and which aren’t, and where they’re having difficulty. For example, we can see whether students are having difficulty with the length or the frequency of sounds, or if they’re having difficulty with the difference between ‘fa’ and ‘va.’ We can see how much progress students make from week to week, and how they’re responding overall.”
According to Winn, the Fast ForWord program has helped to improve students’ skills in a variety of areas from listening accuracy, phonological awareness and language structures, to reading comprehension. “One of the main benefits of the program is that students’ reading comprehension has improved,” said Winn. “Another benefit is that, because everyone is working on the program, we are all using a common vocabulary when we talk about the program and what it can do for our students.”
Thanks to the hard work of students, teachers, administrators and parents, and a rigorous program of instruction and interventions, Hicksville Elementary has achieved measurable gains.
From 2006 to 2010, the percentage of students achieving proficiency in reading on the OAA has increased at each grade level.
Ohio Achievement Assessments (OAA) – Reading Percentage of students achieving proficiency
|Year||Grade 3||Grade 4||Grade 5||Grade 6|
From 2006-07 to 2007-08, Hicksville Elementary improved its school designation from Effective to Excellent. In 2009-10, the school earned the state’s highest designation, Excellent with Distinction.
|Hicksville Elementary School Report Card Designation|
|2009-10||Excellent with Distinction|
“We have many programs in our district and Fast ForWord is one of the tools that’s played a role in our success. We can actually see students turn around and begin making gains once they get into the program. And, because we use Fast ForWord at every grade level, it provides consistency for our students. Each year students work on the program, they’re building critical reading and thinking skills,” said Winn. “In our district, we set high expectations for all our students and Fast ForWord has supported us in our efforts to help every student at every level achieve.”