When technology fails, shouldn’t there be accountability–like real teachers?
In Gainesville, Florida, home of the prestigious University of Florida, the Alachua School District spent $1.19 million on a reading computer program called Fast ForWord.
But children who did Fast ForWord did worse than children not participating in the program!
Will the company Scientific Learning pay the money back to the district? No. Alachua will continue Fast ForWord because they claim there were some gains for certain children.
Yet, according to The Gainesville Sun, outside studies by the U.S. Institute of Education Sciences, an evaluation branch of the Education Department, indicate Fast ForWord has no apparent effects on reading fluency, and only mixed effects on comprehension.
Another study in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, and Allied Disciplines found, in 2011, Fast ForWord didn’t work with children with oral language or reading problems either.
Alachua’s school district is not the only purchaser of the program. Many, many, school districts bought it. Here’s a list.
Fast ForWord ferociously promotes their own program online. They tie the program to changing a child’s brain. I am always leery of brain studies tied to miracle learning programs for children.
Many of us look at the word “scientific” in regard to education as suspicious. The word was inaccurately promoted during No Child Left Behind.
Indeed, they have a video that tells us learning starts in the brain, in case you thought it started in your stomach or some other anatomical region.
They even have a “brain changers” conference.
In this era of belt-tightening for schools, you would think that school boards and superintendents would look beyond the company’s appraisal of itself, and find outside research.
Where were the reading researchers from the University of Florida?
Several groups hail the program as successful with endorsements. I think they need to be held accountable too, so they will be more careful backing programs in the future.
- District Administration
- Readers’ Choice Awards
- Council of Administrators of Special Education
Norman Doidge MD, who wrote the popular book The Brain that Changes Itself is apparently fascinated by Fast ForWord. Why?
The Scientific Learning website is all aglow about it.
Have you read the best-selling book, “The Brain That Changes Itself,” by renowned psychiatrist Dr. Norman Doidge? In his book, Dr. Doidge interviews Dr. Michael Merzenich about his early discoveries on neuroplasticity that changed the way we view neuroscience today. He also delves into the creation of Fast ForWord – if you’ve ever been interested in how the program came about this is a fascinating read.
Obviously, if the program was as scientific and as good as they hype, Gainesville students would have changed brains and be reading fluently now.
Perhaps there should also be a brain study as to why some people mash words together and tweak their meaning like Fast ForWord.
There’s Reading Assistant too. Perhaps there is some benefit to students with learning disabilities reading words that provide cues and do self-correction. But consumers should proceed with caution.
And maybe it’s me, but I rarely see an online program that isn’t boring. The characters aren’t endearing.
It isn’t like a picture book with a Little Bear or an intriguing Dr. Seuss character.
Why would a student be motivated to learn, especially when they lose their art classes in order to do the program as was the case in Alachua County.
A school district could buy a lot of picture and early reading books for $1.19 million! Art materials too!
Of course Fast ForWord and Scientific Learning are connected to Common Core. Wouldn’t you know it?