Driven by Special Ed Need, Ohio District Improves Language Skills for All
The Canton City Schools District in Ohio was looking for new ways to provide better access to the general curriculum for students with disabilities and other learning challenges. They were looking for an RTI solution that would support students across all tiers, so when members of the Assistive Technology Committee saw Read&Write GOLD at a training seminar, they thought they'd found an important addition for their district's toolkit.
Special Education Coordinator and Committee Chairperson, Doreen St. John, saw the value of what Read&Write GOLD could do, not only for those with special needs but for all students.
Read&Write GOLD is an assistive technology software solution from Texthelp Systems that provides text-to-speech and speech-to-text tools. It offers an expansive toolset for reading, writing, studying, and research, including word prediction, customizable vocabulary, and spell checking, that appealed to St. John and the Canton district.
"There are a lot of other products that you can buy separately," said St. John. "But we liked that Read&Write GOLD had it all rolled into one." She also noted that teachers are more likely to use tools that are bundled together.
Read&Write GOLD can be set up to read everything as it appears on the screen, or to only read text as it is called upon by hovering. Words are highlighted as they are read aloud to assist students in developing word recognition. The Read&Write GOLD toolbar is one of the unique tools that particularly appealed to St. John. The toolbar makes the software tools accessible from any common application including word processing, Web pages and PDF files. For children with special needs, St. John notes that their IEPs often provide extra time for test taking or completing assignments, and Read&Write GOLD gives help to students who struggle with grasping information that is presented visually.
Although the district's primary goal was to improve language skills for the 1,700 students with special needs, administrators implemented Read&Write GOLD for all students, and placed it on all the computers in each of the district's 25 computer labs and on the teacher computers in every classroom. "We put the software on every computer in the district to provide greater access for all students, but especially those with disabilities," St. John said.
"Our goal is to embed our infrastructure with the core tools that will help all students ? to offer a true UDL solution," she added. "This way students with special needs see other students using the program, which removes any stigma."
St. John said that making programs like Read&Write GOLD available to all students may blur the line between special ed and the mainstream curriculum, but the district believes in being proactive. "We are convinced that if we can help these students in their younger years with literacy through the ways we teach and the tools we provide like Read&Write GOLD, they'll be more successful."
The district feels very positive about the early results they have seen with Read&Write Gold . "Students are using it and teachers are excited about the possibilities and capabilities," St. John said.
With a solid year behind them, the district administrators are moving forward this year with purchasing at-home licenses for all 10,200 students in the district so they will have Read&Write GOLD on their home computers.
"We don't jump on the bandwagon for every tool that's out there," St. John concluded, "but this is one that works."
For more information about Read&Write GOLD, visit www.texthelp.com