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What Works Clearinghouse


Fast ForWord Language is a computer-based instructional program developed to build cognitive skills students need to improve English language proficiency and reading skill. It consists of seven game-like exercises, including nonverbal and verbal sound discrimination, phonological processing, vocabulary recognition, and language comprehension. Each exercise begins with basic skills and builds up to more complex skills. The difficulty of each task is continuously adapted so that students would get about 80% of the items correct. Fast ForWord Language was designed for students struggling with reading, but has been used for English language learners. There are multiple Fast ForWord products; this review focuses on Fast ForWord Language as used with English language learners.


One study of Fast ForWord Language met the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) evidence standards, and a second study met WWC standards with reservations. The two studies included a total of 250 kindergarten through sixth-grade English language learners from 16 school districts. The studies examined results on phonological awareness skills,1 reading achievement, and English language development.2


Fast ForWord Language was found to have potentially positive effects on English language development and no discernible effects on the reading achievement of elementary school English language learners.

  Reading achievement Mathematics achievement English language development
Rating of effectiveness No discernible effects Not reported Potentially positive effects
Improvement index3 Average: +3 percentile points
Range: 0 to +5 percentile points
Not reported Average: +31 percentile points
Range: +31 percentile points
1 Phonological and phoneme awareness, which are early reading skills, fell outside the realm of this review.
2 The evidence presented in this report is based on available research. Findings and conclusions may change as new research becomes available.
3 These numbers show the average and range of improvement indices for all findings across the two studies.