Texas Education Agency Reauthorizes Fast ForWord Software for State-Sanctioned Intensive Reading Instruction Programs
For the second time in a row, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) has named Scientific Learning Corp.’s (NASDAQ:SCIL) neuroscience-based Fast ForWord(R) products to the state’s “Commissioner’s List of Approved Intensive Reading Program Providers.” A component of the Texas Intensive Reading/Intensive Math Initiative, the list is presented to eligible schools, with struggling readers in grades four through eight. These schools can receive non-competitive grant funding for purchasing the approved intensive instruction programs of their choice.
The state’s Intensive Reading/Intensive Math Initiative was created in 2005 to help public schools that were having the most difficulty in improving students’ reading or math performance. The reading component of the initiative is the Texas Intensive Reading Instruction (IRI) program and funding is estimated to be $15 million for the 2007-09 period. “We were one of only 10 reading program providers named to the original list back in 2006 when the initiative was launched,” said Robert C. Bowen, chairman and CEO of Scientific Learning. “The grant was reauthorized in the latest legislature session, and we are very proud to be once again included in the select listing that TEA has created for Texas schools.”
According to the IRI mandates, comprehensive research-based instruction; assessment and performance outcome measures; data-driven instruction systems; and professional development are among the necessary components of any approved comprehensive intensive reading program. “We were able to demonstrate that although this was not a technology grant, our Fast ForWord software more than met all the IRI requirements,” said Bowen.
The Fast ForWord software is based on more than 30 years of scientific research into how the brain learns. In addition, Fast ForWord’s Progress Tracker feature provides continuous monitoring, assessment and performance outcome data, while a fast, easy-to-use computerized assessment called Reading Progress Indicator provides a clear picture of every student’s reading skills in terms of grade equivalents, percentile scores and normal curve equivalents. Teachers use the data collected via both of these assessment and analysis tools to guide their instruction.
Finally, Scientific Learning provides intensive and thorough professional development about the science behind the Fast ForWord products, best practices for implementation and use, and the many ways to integrate the products for classroom, before- or after-school, weekend or summer instruction. The professional development service also includes follow-up training, implementation management as well as installations and consultations at the school sites.
“For the past eight years, the Fast ForWord family of products has been helping Texas students succeed in school districts such as Dallas, Marshall, DeSoto, Arlington, Killeen, United, Laredo, and Amarillo,” said Bowen. “Hundreds of school districts nationwide have performed independent evaluations and reported improved performance. That includes the Dallas Independent School District, which conducted a four-year longitudinal study that showed participants closing the achievement gap by an average of 23 percent after just five and a half months. Now, we’re eager to spur the achievements of another cohort of Texas students.”
The four-year longitudinal study in the Dallas Independent School District (ISD) investigated the effects of the Fast ForWord products on the reading skills of struggling students in 20 high schools from 2004 to 2007. After Fast ForWord participation, students improved their Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) reading scores. In addition to achieving gains immediately after using the Fast ForWord software, the struggling readers continued to increase their achievement levels in the following years. In the three years after the students’ initial participation in Fast ForWord program, the average decrease in the achievement gap between the students in the study and other students statewide was 25 percent.
About the Texas Intensive Reading/Intensive Math Initiative
Funding for the Intensive Reading Instruction and Math Instruction programs was established through Rider 48(a), passed by the 79th Legislature in 2005. Campus eligibility was based on 2005 student passing rates on the fifth-grade reading and math Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) tests. In 2006, about $20 million in Intensive Reading and Math Instruction grant funds was made available to Texas schools to provide immediate, targeted instruction programs for students struggling in reading and/or mathematics so those students would be able to meet the grade advancement requirements of the Student Success Initiative and master grade level curriculum expectations. Currently, the grant program has been expanded to include students in grades four through eight.
About Scientific Learning Corp.
Scientific Learning creates educational software that accelerates learning by improving the processing efficiency of the brain. Based on more than 30 years of neuroscience and cognitive research, the Fast ForWord(R) family of products provides struggling readers with computer-delivered exercises that build the cognitive skills required to read and learn effectively. Scientific Learning Reading Assistant(TM) combines advanced speech recognition technology with scientifically-based courseware to help students strengthen fluency, vocabulary and comprehension to become proficient, life-long readers. The efficacy of the products has been established by more than 550 research studies and publications. For more information, visit www.scientificlearning.com or call toll-free 888-452-7323.