Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Students Who Build Brain Fitness Improve Performance on State Tests

Students Who Build Brain Fitness Improve Performance on State Tests

Mar. 29, 2011 (Business Wire) — On state tests administered each spring, even bright young learners worry about their performance. Take Garrett, for example. The son of an elementary school principal, Garrett had the benefit of a strong preschool education and dedicated parents who read with him every day. Yet, Garrett struggled with reading in first and second grades, and scored below grade level on the Idaho Reading Indicator (IRI).

Then, in the third grade, everything changed. Garrett gained 3.7 years of growth, jumping from a second-grade to nearly a sixth-grade reading level. For the first time, he also scored at the proficient level in reading on his state test, the Idaho Standards Achievement Test (ISAT). What changed? From September to April, Garrett participated in a brain fitness program called Fast ForWord® that exercised his cognitive muscles and improved his brain function. This allowed Garrett to better take advantage of the content presented to him in school and at home, and maintain an accelerated rate of learning even after the program ended.

As Garrett’s story illustrates, successful preparation for state tests involves more than high quality, standards-based subject area instruction. Forward-thinking schools are accelerating learning and improving performance on high-stakes tests by building students’ brain fitness. By exercising the parts of the brain that contribute to learning — memory, attention, processing and sequencing — schools can improve students’ ability to learn and retain knowledge.

At Discovery Elementary, the Title I school in Idaho Falls where Garrett’s father, Ken Marlowe, serves as principal, students began using the Fast ForWord software in 2008 to exercise and train their brains to process more efficiently, and build critical reading skills. In 2010, students in grades three through six made significant gains on the ISAT in reading, language usage, and math. For example, from 2009 to 2010, the percentage of Discovery Elementary students achieving proficiency jumped from 86 to 95 percent in reading, 81 to 84 percent in language usage, and 85 to 95 percent in math. In addition, Discovery Elementary students surpassed district averages across all subjects.

“I have found the Fast ForWord program to be the difference maker in meeting the ever-growing expectations of student proficiency in reading, language, and math. This is not only true for the students I work with at Discovery Elementary, but for my own son as well,” said Marlowe. “Now, of course, I wondered if these skills would carry forward or not after a student stops using the Fast ForWord program. I’m here to tell you that at the end of fourth grade, my son scored in the advanced range on all state tests in reading, language, and math. The Fast ForWord program really turned things around for him. He went from dreading to read to loving to read, and you can’t stop him now. It’s a tribute to the Fast ForWord program and what it’s able to do. Students maintain their gains even after the program ends. And that’s just one story. I’ve got a school full of them.”

Building brain fitness can also improve high school students’ performance on state tests. At Collins Career Center, a vocational school for 11th and 12th graders in rural Chesapeake, Ohio, students improved their reading skill levels and achieved significant gains on the Ohio Graduation Tests (OGT) in reading, writing, mathematics, science and social studies. In 2009, for example, students who used the Fast ForWord program achieved a 10-to-1 gain over their peers on all five tests of the OGT.
“I was flabbergasted at how quickly we were able to move students forward in their reading ability and comprehension after purchasing the Fast ForWord program,” said Stephen Dodgion, superintendent of the Lawrence County Joint Vocational School District. “We were so excited about the results, we felt we needed to get the software to every student on this campus. Our scores have gone up considerably and I feel strongly that it is a result of this software.”

About Scientific Learning Corp.
We accelerate learning by applying proven research on how the brain learns. Scientific Learning’s results are demonstrated in over 200 research studies and protected by over 55 patents. Learners can realize achievement gains of one to two years in as little as eight to 12 weeks and maintain an accelerated rate of learning even after the programs end.

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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Goodnight Room: Story Strategies for Building the Best Bedtimes

March 8, 2011 by Martha Burns, Ph. D

Remember Good Night Moon by Margaret Wise Brown? When I think of this book, I think about how the bunny is snuggled into bed, toys put a way, moon peeking in through the window, and everyone and everything is whispering “good night.” I’ve noted that the “old lady whispering hush” is rocking in her chair far across the room, and the book The Runaway Bunny sits on the bedside table; story time has ended for this little bunny and now it’s time for sleep.
Everything is perfect and quiet. What might the perfect story time have looked like in that “good night room” 15 minutes before the book opens? First of all, the old lady would have been sitting much closer, maybe on the edge of the bed. And her soft, clear voice would be helping that little bunny not only relax, but learn to love books as well as solidify the rudiments of language.
Whenever possible, make a consistent habit of 15-30 minutes each evening to tell or read stories before bed. Just as it did for your child at a year of age, for your tot it will serve two purposes: quiet him down and prepare him for sleep, as well as introduce the repetition of words and sentence forms that build the school-important left hemisphere. As your two-year old begins to develop a love of specific books or stories, you will have a wealth of material to settle her down on car and plane trips where sitting still for long periods is mandatory.
And remember, a bedroom is usually the quietest room in a home. All the soft materials (the bedding, window coverings, rugs, and even “goodnight socks and bears”) actually absorb what hearing specialists call ambient noise, rendering your speech clearer and easier to perceive. Reading in this quiet room helps your child learn to discriminate the subtle differences in speech sounds. As a bonus, if you read or tell stories to your tot in the bedroom, where you will be sitting right next to him, you will be providing the best speech signal available. The easy rule I use to describe this is, “An arms span, from mouth to ear, makes sure all bunnies’ hearing is clear.”
It probably doesn’t matter what stories you tell or read. It is the natural clarity of the speech signal that occurs in a ”goodnight room,” the repetition that results from your child’s own preference for certain stories, and the closeness and attention that the child receives from the most important people in her life that make this short period of the day so important to your child. And, it goes without saying that the benefit to you will be that after this small investment of time, you will have some time to yourself to relax, read, enjoy a favorite television show, or just interact with your spouse.
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