The study took place in eight urban public schools in Baltimore – two elementary schools, three middle schools, and three elementary-middle schools. Intervention group students participated in the Fast ForWord program in resource rooms in their schools.
The student participants tended to have below average reading and language scores. In the analytic sample reported in the published paper (n=180, with 86 intervention group students and 94 comparison group students), 44.2 percent of the intervention group and 45.7 percent of the comparison group were males. Among the intervention group, 0 percent were Native American, 1.2 percent were Asian, 64 percent were Black, 33.7 percent were White, 1.2 percent were Latino, and 73.3 percent were eligible for free lunch. Among the comparison group, 2.1 percent were Native American, 1.1 percent were Asian, 66 percent were Black, 29.8 percent were White, 1.1 percent were Latino, and 84 percent were eligible for free lunch.
The study examined the effectiveness of a reading intervention for students struggling with reading. The intervention group received the Fast ForWord Language intervention, which consists of 100 minutes of training per day, 5 days a week for 4-8 weeks. The Fast ForWord programs used computer technology to change features of oral language (e.g., volume, pitch, and duration) so that students could more easily recognize individual phonemes. The “stretching and enhancement” of the sounds of language were varied systematically in degree and intensity throughout the programs. Also, the programs adapted to individual participants’ skill level by providing less scaffolding as students progress. For example, speech sounds were gradually moved closer together until natural speech is presented.
Fast ForWord Language, a computer-based intervention, involved exercises provided in a game-like environment with animations. Participants received on-screen rewards for successfully completing segments of the program, and a token economy system was used to reward students for achieving point goals. Points were awarded for both correct answers and attentiveness to instruction. Participant data were uploaded daily to Scientific Learning, and then weekly reports on participant progress were generated. Students began at a basic level and advance through the program as they achieved predetermined levels of proficiency. Typically, participants completed the program in 6-8 weeks.
In this study, students in the intervention group participated in the Fast ForWord Language program in resource rooms within each school. Intervention group students participated in Fast ForWord training during the school day as part of a pullout program. Thus, the Fast ForWord Language program was supplemental to the regular classroom literacy instruction provided to all students.
The comparison group was business-as-usual. While intervention group students participated in the Fast ForWord program, comparison group students participated in non-literacy instruction or special activities and classes (e.g., art, gym).
Support for implementation
At each of the eight schools, the researchers conducted three brief site visits (during the first, third, and fifth weeks of the program) and used a checklist to assess the quality of the program implementation. Specific aspects of the program that were assessed included whether the computers and training rooms met requirements, what implementation support was provided by school personnel and Scientific Learning, and how problems had been addressed. Scientific Learning provided a training session to all participating teachers prior to the start of the program, and each participating school had a representative from Scientific Learning visit the school to oversee initial implementation. Additionally, data pertaining to fidelity of implementation and compliance with the intervention, as well as data concerning individual student progress were collected via Scientific Learning. Data collected include the overall number of training sessions attended by a given student, the student’s compliance with the program schedule (calculated by dividing the total minutes a student has trained by the total minutes a student should have trained), and the student’s exercise completion rate.