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District Statistics

  • School District: Pocatello/Chubbuck School District
  • Number of Students: 12,111
  • Grades: Pre-K to 12
  • Population: ELL students less than 1%; Students with IEPs 12%
  • Assessment tool: ISAT
  • School Structure: Urban

Enduring Gains in the Pocatello/Chubbuck School District in Idaho.

One good deed begets another. That's how it all started in School District 25, in the bucolic southeastern region of Idaho, home to the small city of Pocatello and the town of Chubbuck.

Brain Science Stands Out.

"We'd heard about Fast ForWord® from one of Scientific Learning's sales reps in Seattle," recalls Ronda Black, the school district's Fast ForWord coordinator. "We met one of the neuroscientists and were just fascinated with the premise of the program."

Unfortunately, the school district didn't have the funding to try using Fast ForWord software. But then a corporate "angel" stepped in—the Albertson's Foundation.

The district quickly put together a pilot program for summer school. "We used the Idaho Standards Achievement Test, or ISAT, to gather a group of kids who were reading below proficiency," says Black. That resulted in about 25 kids from grades five through high school signing up for the program.

A Three-Grade Jump in Just Six Weeks.

Although Black had high expectations, even she was amazed at the results. "We had kids who grew tremendously," she says. "As I remember it, they jumped an average of three grade levels—and we had some who grew more than that!"

Curriculum and Assessment Director Chuck Wegner decided to continue tracking the progress of those Fast ForWord students. "We have been following them for several years now, and we have seen some truly incredible results," he says. "They just keep gaining in their achievement." Black concurs: "Our Fast ForWord students have had more significant gains on their tests than our other kids have."

"Our phones were ringing off the hook with parents begging, 'Please don't take my child out of this.'"

Irving Middle School Gets Out of "AYP Jail."

In the fall of 2004, Irving Middle School principal Jim Harrell was faced with having to find a way to get his school out of "AYP jail." "We got in there," he says, "because of my students with disabilities who were not attaining the state benchmark." Harrell got a state grant to implement Fast ForWord products, which he did in January 2005.

The result: "We had a 22-point jump in our reading scores, which got us out of 'AYP jail’," he says. Harrell notes, "What's important is that, with rare exceptions, the kids are making gains. And at the end of the day, that's what we care about."

Parents are Asking for More.

As a small, rural school district, Pocatello/Chubbuck has limited resources with which to expand its Fast ForWord program, but "As soon as the grant money comes in," says Black, "we put it toward Fast ForWord."

One of their most successful efforts to date has been a district-wide after school program. The results have been "just fantastic," says Black.

"We've had two sessions going with 25-30 kids in each session. At the 12-week break, when we were ready to bring in new students, half the parents came to us and said, 'We don't want our child to stop.' "

"Our phones were ringing off the hook with parents begging, 'Please don't take my child out of this.'"

More Grants, More Fast ForWord Use.

Wegner says the school district is committed to expanding the program. "We received a grant this year to implement it in three of our elementary schools, and we're excited about that."

Recently Pocatello hosted the Idaho State Middle School Conference, where Principal Jim Harrell, along with two teachers, did a presentation on Fast ForWord softward. Wegner reports, "We have a product here where we can definitely point to the data and say that this works. We can show people that it works. That's exciting for us—and it's good for kids. We definitely have a winner here."

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