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

This article describes the methods and results of an independent assessment of the Fast ForWord Language computer-based training program developed by Scientific Learning Corporation. The study assessed the language and reading outcomes for second- and seventh-grade students served by a pilot program in eight schools in the Baltimore City Public School System (BCPSS). Data collected included a pretest and posttest of students' language and reading comprehension skills using (a) the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills, Fifth Edition (CTBS/5) Terra Nova; (b) teacher-reported information regarding each child's language skills prior to the intervention; and (c) descriptive data regarding the implementation of the program at the school sites. We implemented an experimental design that involved within-school random assignment of students to the program or a control group condition. This randomized field trial across eight BCPSS schools yielded a study with strong internal validity that also provided good external validity for assessing whether Fast ForWord programs can be expected to help academically at-risk students from an urban locale learn literacy skills that are commonly measured in school accountability programs across the nation.

Borman, G.D. & Benson, J.
(WCER Working Paper No. 2006-5). Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin-Madison, Wisconsin Center for Education Research.
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Content Area: 
Grade Level: 
middle school
IDEA Disability Category: 
emotional disturbance
major-other health impairment
specific learning disability
speech or language impairment
visual impairment
Instructional Support: 
opportunities to learn concepts
practice and reinforcement activities
National Reading Panel Standards: 
English Language Arts: 
Reading: Foundational Skills
Reading: Informational Text
Reading: Literature