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Fast ForWord

Some of you might be interested in seeing this two page article on an independent study of Fast Forword. The article also includes a good summary of policy implications regarding programs touted as "scientifically-based".    Eldo Bergman, M.D. Texas Reading Institute.

An Assessment of Fast ForWord 

This is the Abstract :
Although schools across the country are investing heavily in computers in the classroom, there is
surprisingly little evidence that they actually improve student achievement. In this paper we present results
from a randomized study of a well-defined use of computers in schools: a popular instructional computer
program, known as Fast ForWord, which is designed to improve language and reading skills. We assess
the impact of the program using four different measures of language and reading ability. Our estimates
suggest that while use of the computer program may improve some aspects of students’ language skills, it
does not appear that these gains translate into a broader measure of language acquisition or into actual
reading skills.

And from the Conclusion:
In any event, results from our experimental evaluation, along with those in Borman and Rachuba
(2001), suggest that the achievement gains schools can expect students to experience from the FFW
program are likely much smaller than those claimed by the vendor of the program" etc.

The actual paper can be retrieved from

120,000 or more students have been through Fast ForWord, and still no good recommendations coming from its authors concerning who is likely to benefit most and who is unlikely to benefit.  While the authors are scientists who have had productive careers, they do not seem to have avoided the lure of typical education product promotion.  Unfortunately, there are few cases (Hooked on Phonics is the only one that comes to mind) where the Federal Trade Commission went after undocumented claims of education benefit.

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