A computer-based program intended to sharpen children’s auditory skills in order to help them read better did not appear to help students in eight schools studied as part of a randomized field trial.
Fast ForWord, developed by the Oakland, Calif.-based Scientific Learning Corp., is intended to help students learn phonemes, or the sounds that make up words. Though the program is widely used, there has been little rigorous evaluation of it, say the authors of the study, published in the March issue of Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis.
Researchers studied 415 students in the 2nd and 7th grades who had low reading-test scores. In addition to showing generally no improvement in language and reading-test scores among the students overall, the researchers found that schools had problems implementing Fast ForWord as designed, which would have required students to spend 90 to 100 minutes a day, five days a week, with the program. The 7th graders who followed the program faithfully did see improved literacy outcomes, the researchers say.
A version of this article appeared in the March 18, 2009 edition of Education Week