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Fast ForWord program works wonders, school officials say

December 01, 2010 - Staci Puzio, along with North Sashabaw Elementary Principal Debra Latozas and Renaissance High School Principal Billie Pambid, updated Clarkston School Board on Fast ForWord program, Nov. 22.

Since September 2009, 647 students have used the program, with 349 at the elementary level and 298 at secondary. Students gain an average of four months to a year in reading level, Puzio reported, based on 2-3 years of results.

Fast ForWord is a computer program to help students improve communication skills and their thinking, reading and speaking skills.

Treasurer Rosalie Lieblang asked what happens with children after they finish the program.

"They are tested each trimester," said Latoza, adding some students are tested more depending on their needs. "We keep track of them pretty frequently."

She noted students are tested either they have been part of the Fast ForWord program or not.

"They need to be on grade level and stay on grade level," Latozas added.

North Sashabaw Elementary put all of its fifth graders through the program and the results were positive in student behaviors in the classroom as well as reading.

"They did more in the classroom," Latozas said. "They listened better and performed better."

Students spend 30 minutes each day using Fast ForWord at North Sashabaw, Latozas said.

Pambid said Fast ForWord time at Renaissance High School varies from 15-30 minutes.

"It depends on what it best for the student," she said

Board Secretary Joan Patterson was concerned about students dropping out because they lost interest. Pambid said some stop using it but came back.

"If you talk to kids, there won't be one that didn't find it boring at one point," she said. "If they are bored they should be able to fly through it and get to the level more challenging for them."

Fast ForWord is also offered as an afterschool class through Clarkston Community Education, and Renaissance runs it during summer schools for their students.

The district spent $568,540 on Fast ForWord, including $102,000 on staffing for the 2009-2010 fiscal year.

Cost this year includes maintenance fee of $4,500 per site, total of $49,500. It includes ongoing assessment studies. The program is embedded into the regular reading curriculum.

No additional aide positions were added for the program, all aide time used for Fast ForWord comes from existing aide positions.

Wendi graduated from the University of Michigan-Flint with a degree in communications. She wrote for the Michigan Times college paper and Grand Blanc View before joining The Clarkston News in October 2007.
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