Schools reduce special ed referrals, save money, and improve test scores with Fast Forword and Reading Assistant programs

Lauren Williams's picture
Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Students with disabilities drop out at twice the rate of their peers, and 80 percent never learn to read proficiently. Even more alarming is the fact that only three percent of students who enter special education ever exit. To reduce special education referrals and get struggling learners back on track, schools across the country are turning to the Fast ForWord® and Reading Assistant™ online programs from Scientific Learning Corp. (OTCQB:SCIL). In Ware County Schools in Georgia and the Show Low Unified School District in Arizona, schools using the programs have significantly reduced the number of students referred to special education, while improving student performance on state tests.

Fast ForWord is different from other reading interventions because it targets the root cause of learning issues, like weaknesses in phonemic awareness, memory, attention and processing. Students using the program can raise their reading skill level up to two years in as little as three months. The Reading Assistant program is the only online reading tool that “listens” to students as they read out loud, intervenes when they struggle, and automatically scores students’ oral reading. It provides individualized online reading coaching for every student, helping them to strengthen vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension.

Ware County Schools, Ga.

Part of Ware County Schools, Waresboro Elementary began using the Fast ForWord program as part of its Response to Intervention (RTI) practices in 2009, and added the Reading Assistant program in 2011. From 2009-10 to 2012-13, Waresboro Elementary reduced the number of referrals for Tier 4 (special education) evaluations.

“Thanks to our RTI practices and interventions like Fast ForWord and Reading Assistant, our special education referrals are now data-driven and more specific to the individual’s area of need,” said Waresboro Elementary Principal Susan Newman. “In the past, we may have sent in referrals for children who were not truly in need of Tier 4 interventions. Now, we are more targeted and effective in our referrals.”

In addition, students in grades 3-5 at Waresboro have made significant improvements on the Georgia Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT). From 2008 to 2012, the percentage of students who passed the CRCT jumped from 87 to 96 percent in reading/English language arts, and from 75 to 94 percent in mathematics.

Show Low Unified School District, Ariz.

The Fast ForWord program also plays an integral role in the RTI program in Show Low Unified School District. Before a student can receive a special education referral, he or she must participate in the Fast ForWord program for at least six months. Since the district began using Fast ForWord in 2006, special education referrals and discipline incidents have decreased, while the percentage of students passing Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) has increased.

“In our RTI program, teachers and schools must provide several pieces of information before a child is tested to determine eligibility for special education services. The Fast ForWord data is a critical part of this. It gives us a much clearer picture of the students who are not where they should be because of a delay or an environmental issue, versus a true disability,” said Principal Sandy Brimhall, who previously served as Show Low’s special services director. “Another benefit is that, often, by the time students have been in the Fast ForWord program for six months, they no longer qualify for special education because they’re now at grade level. The Fast ForWord program is a key reason the percentage of students receiving special education services has dropped in our district. It has also helped change the perception that just because a child is behind two grade levels that he or she has a disability.”

Show Low reports that having Fast ForWord as a mandated part of the RTI process has saved the district money as well. “While we still do psychological evaluations as part of the referral process, by time the psychologist gets the data from Fast ForWord and the other interventions, it’s very easy to determine if the child has a disability or just a delay. It helps us ensure children get a correct diagnosis and are not placed in special education for other issues. We’ve also been able to reduce the amount of time students spend working with a speech therapist and have increased the number of students exiting speech therapy,” said Brimhall.

About Scientific Learning Corp.

We accelerate learning by applying proven research on how the brain learns. Scientific Learning’s results are demonstrated in over 270 research studies and protected by over 55 patents. Learners can realize achievement gains of up to two years in as little as three months and maintain an accelerated rate of learning even after the programs end.

Today, more than 2.7 million learners have used Scientific Learning software products. We provide our offerings directly to parents, K–12 schools and learning centers, and in more than 45 countries around the world. For more information, visit www.scientificlearning.com or call toll-free 888-810-0250.