North Carolina District Credits Technology for Reading Improvements


Anson County School District, a rural district in North Carolina, has been recognized by Scientific Learning Corp. as a national reference site for the strides the district's struggling student readers have made with SLC's Fast ForWord educational software products. The software aims to help students with learning disabilities to process information more efficiently.

At one of the district's schools, Peachland-Polkton Elementary, 52.5 percent of students identified as having disabilities related to reading scored at or above grade level on the state's annual EOG (end of grade) reading tests in 2008. For the school's fourth grade classes, the number is 82.4 percent of students with disabilities, as compared to 48.3 percent of regular education students.

The district began using Fast ForWord in fall 2007. "We tried all the traditional interventions but were not seeing the progress we had hoped for," explained Nancy Bricker, a teacher and FastForWord coach at Peachland-Polkton. "We felt the Fast ForWord program could help because it targets the exact areas in which children are having difficulty."

Selected students worked with the software 40 minutes a day, five days a week for the entire school year. Teachers throughout the district of more than 4,400 students have reported their pupils showing improvement in memory, sequencing and rate of processing, as well as an overall more positive attitude toward learning.

"We encourage schools to use the Fast ForWord program with as many students as they can," said Michael Freeman, executive director of teaching and learning for the district. "The program is even used at Anson County Early College High School to help students who need to strengthen their skills so they can begin taking community college-level courses."

Freeman also noted that the effects of using the software have noticeably helped students across the academic spectrum, improving attention span and focus in all their classes, and contributing to the students' overall interest in learning.

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Scott Aronowitz is a freelance writer based in Las Vegas. He has covered the technology, advertising, and entertainment sectors for seven years. He can be reached here.