WWC review of this study

Can brain research and computers improve literacy? A randomized field trial of the Fast ForWord Language computer-based training program.

Borman, G. D., Benson, J., & Wisconsin Center for Education Research, Madison. (2006). (WCER working paper no. 2006-5). Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin-Madison, Wisconsin Center for Education Research.

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
     examining 
    188
     Students
    , grade
    7
Meets WWC standards without reservations

Reviewed: March 2013

Characteristics of study sample as reported by study author.


  • Urban
No statistically significant positive
findings
Meets WWC standards with reservations

Reviewed: August 2010

Comprehension outcomes—Indeterminate effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
index

Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills, 5th Edition (CTBS/5): Terra Nova Reading Composite score

Fast ForWord® vs. None

Posttest

Grade 7;
188 students

36.99

34.03

No

--
Literacy achievement outcomes—Indeterminate effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
index

Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills, 5th Edition (CTBS/5): Terra Nova Language Composite score

Fast ForWord® vs. None

Posttest

Grade 7;
188 students

40.52

40.14

No

--

Characteristics of study sample as reported by study author.


  • 79% Free or reduced price lunch
  • Race
    Black
    66%

  • Urban
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    Maryland

Setting

The study took place in seven middle schools in the Baltimore City Public School System.

Study sample

Students were eligible for the study if they scored below national norms on the total reading outcome for the district-administered Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills–Fifth Edition (CTBS/5) during the spring of 2000. These students also tended to have below-average outcomes on language skills. A total of 274 of these academically at-risk seventh-grade students took pretests (CTBS/5) in the spring of 2001. Random assignment was conducted separately within each of seven schools. Of the initial intervention and comparison students, listwise deletion of students with missing pretest or posttest data was conducted. Additionally, 13 students (eight from the treatment group and five from the control group) were dropped from the sample because they were determined to be outliers based on a substantial drop from pre- to posttest. In all, 90 students in the Fast ForWord® group and 98 students in the control group were included in the analysis sample (therefore, overall attrition was 31%). Although differential attrition between the treatment and control groups was 8%, the treatment and control groups were shown to be similar to each other at baseline. The groups primarily consisted of African-American (66.3% of both the intervention and comparison groups) and economically disadvantaged students (73.3% of the intervention group and 84.7% of the comparison group received free lunch).

Intervention Group

In addition to their regular reading instruction, students randomly assigned to the intervention condition used the Fast ForWord® Language software program in school resource rooms. The resource rooms served as a targeted pullout program offered during the regular school day to supplement the regular classroom literacy instruction. Students received the program 100 minutes a day, five days a week, for at least 20 days under the supervision of an Fast ForWord®-trained teacher. The study reported students’ outcomes after two months of program implementation.

Comparison Group

In addition to their regular reading instruction, comparison group students received nonliteracy instruction or participated in special activities and classes not related to literacy, such as art and gym.

Outcome descriptions

The eligible outcomes are standardized (normal curve equivalent) CTBS/5 Terra Nova Language and Reading test scores. These tests were administered both before and after the intervention. For a more detailed description of test outcome measures, see Appendix A2.4.

Support for implementation

Before the start of the program, Scientific Learning provided training sessions for teachers operating the Fast ForWord® programs at the schools. No detailed information about these training sessions was provided by the authors.

 

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