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Thousands of students in Lafayette are improving their reading with a program called Fast ForWord. Fast ForWord is a scientifically researched program, which uses the principals of neuroplasticity—the ability of the brain to retrain and improve—to strengthen the cognitive skills needed for all learning. It was developed by neuroscientists to improve reading skills while concurrently developing foundational skills including memory, attention, processing and sequencing. These cognitive skills are needed in all content areas. Currently, students in twenty-six schools in Lafayette Parish use Fast ForWord.
Participating students are given pre and post assessments, called the Reading Progress Indicator (RPI), to measure their growth as they progress through the program. The RPI is an individually administered computer-based assessment that covers key reading and language skills: phonological awareness, decoding, vocabulary, and comprehension.
Dr. Aguillard saw the clear benefits of Fast ForWord in St. Mary Parish for over a decade before he took over as Lafayette Parish Superintendent. Fast ForWord was not being used in any schools in Lafayette Parish when Dr. Aguillard arrived, even though the district owned 13 site licenses. He reinstated the program in the schools that already owned site licenses and expanded the program to 26 schools today.
In Lafayette Parish, 2,801 students who are participating in the Fast ForWord program this school year have received the pre and post assessments. On average, these students have moved from the 28th percentile to the 41st percentile in reading in 100 days. The 1,550 students who were initially labeled as “struggling” in reading proficiency, have moved out of that category leaving it with only 168 students. The number of students in the “proficient” category has almost doubled, increasing from 238 to 446, and the “advanced” level has increased from 142 to 402 students.
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