- School District: Liberty Public School District
- Number of Schools: 17
- Number of Students: 10,400
- Grades: Pre-K to 12
- Population: Caucasian 86.30%; African-American 6.60%; Hispanic 4.30%; Asian/Pacific Islander 2.30%; American Indian/Alaska Native 0.60%; free/reduced lunch 15.30%; special education 4.20%; limited English proficient 0.80%
- Assessment tool: Missouri Assessment Program (MAP)
- School Structure: Suburban
Liberty Public Schools Unlocks Students’ Potential for Learning and Improves Missouri Assessment Program Scores
Liberty Public Schools implements Scientific Learning Fast ForWord® and Reading Assistant™ software to help struggling readers build the cognitive and literacy skills to increase reading proficiency. Since 2006, students have achieved significant gains, including improved scores on the Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) in communication arts and math..
- Growing number of struggling readers
- Interventions that did not address the underlying causes for failure
Liberty Public Schools (LPS) is a growing suburban school district that encompasses 85 square miles just northeast of Kansas City, MO. In the mid-1990s, the district launched a reading tutoring program to help struggling elementary school students. In the Teach, Assist and Practice (TAP) program, paraprofessionals provided one-on-one tutoring to students 30 minutes a day over 10 weeks. The challenge was that after one, two or even three 10-week sessions, many students still needed intervention.
“Our students were ‘TAPped out’ — and still did not have the reading skills they needed to succeed,” said Dr. Barbara Wippich, curriculum and instruction intervention coordinator for LPS. “In our district, we have always tried to intervene with struggling readers. Yet, as the TAP program demonstrated, some students still failed to make gains.”
To address these needs, LPS implemented the Fast ForWord software in 2006. Fast ForWord is a family of educational software products that accelerate learning by developing the student brain to process more efficiently.
Today, the Fast ForWord program is available in all 10 elementary schools, one junior high and one high school. Struggling readers are identified to work on the software by their test scores or by teacher recommendations. Most work on the program 30 minutes a day.
“When students begin working on Fast ForWord, one of the first things we notice is an improvement in their ability to focus,” said Wippich. “Students also appreciate the instant feedback they receive from the software.”
Using Progress Tracker, an online data analysis and reporting tool, intervention paraprofessionals track each student’s daily performance and share the data with students and their teachers so they can provide timely, specific intervention strategies in the classroom.
“Thanks to Fast ForWord, our struggling students have not only learned to read but to enjoy reading, which is something they will carry with them forever,” said Wippich. “We’ve always had intervention programs but there are always some children you're just not connecting with. I see Fast ForWord as the key that has allowed us to unlock students’ potential, particularly for those students we were not able to reach before.”
In 2008-09, Franklin Elementary became the first school in LPS to implement both the newly redesigned Fast ForWord Language v2 program and the Reading Assistant software. Fast ForWord Language v2 software moves elementary students toward grade level reading skills, with a focus on listening accuracy, phonological awareness and language structures. Reading Assistant combines advanced speech recognition technology with scientifically based interventions to help students strengthen reading fluency, vocabulary and comprehension.
“There were several children in grades 3-5 who could read, but not with fluency — and that’s where we saw tremendous growth,” said Wippich.
In addition to working on Fast ForWord daily, students worked on the Reading Assistant software 20 minutes a day, at least three times a week. Reading Assistant uses research-validated speech recognition technology to “listen” to each child as he or she reads aloud. Readers are helped with interactive resources, immediate feedback on errors, and private playback. The software also maintains performance records and the corresponding audio of each reading session for review by the student and teacher.
“The great thing about Reading Assistant is that students can hear themselves read a passage and then immediately hear what it should sound like. It’s like a having another teacher for each of our students,” said Wippich. “Students really like it and they enjoy reading the passages. Many more of our schools would like to add Reading Assistant.”
- Increased MAP scores
- Increased self-esteem, focus and attentiveness
“We’re very excited with the results we’ve seen in students who use the Fast ForWord program — the change in attitude, increase in self-esteem, ability to focus, and ability to remember. Students realize that they are indeed bright and can learn,” said Wippich.
In addition to seeing reading gains, teachers tell Wippich that students are making gains in other subjects like math and spelling, and are more focused and attentive in all their classes.
For the last seven years, LPS has been named a “High Performing School District,” the highest accreditation ranking given by the state of Missouri. Liberty students consistently score above state and national norms on standardized tests.
In addition, over the last three years, the district has achieved steady gains on the MAP and Franklin Elementary has achieved even greater gains. From 2008 to 2009, the percentage of Franklin Elementary students scoring at the proficient level or above on the MAP jumped from 65 percent to 82 percent in communication arts, and from 69 percent to 80 percent in mathematics.
2009 Missouri Assessment Program (MAP)
Percentage of students who are Proficient or Advanced
|Liberty Public Schools||65.3||60.7||61.7|
|Annual Proficiency Target||59.2||51||42.9|
|Liberty Public Schools||68.1||66.8||66.4|
|Annual Proficiency Target||54.1||45||35.8|
“At Franklin Elementary, I know that every effort was put in last year to meet the needs of every child — and it showed,” said Wippich. “Students not only increased their reading proficiency, but improved their ability to remember and stay on task, which is important no matter what subject you’re teaching. Fast ForWord and Reading Assistant played a vital part in their success.”