Leadership Studies Ed.D. Dissertations


Fast ForWord: An Investigation of the Effectiveness of Computer-assisted Reading Intervention

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


Leadership Studies

First Advisor

Rachel Vannatta Reinhart (Committee Chair)

Second Advisor

Robert Satterlee (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Cindy Hendricks (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Timothy Rasinski (Committee Member)

Fifth Advisor

Judith Zimmerman (Committee Member)


The three-fold purpose of this quasi-experimental study was to examine the impact of the computer-based reading program Fast ForWord (FFW) on the reading achievement of second-grade students in an Ohio school district. The sample included 360 students (treatment group, n=85; control group, n=275) from four elementary buildings. FFW is an intervention designed to “build the learning capacity of the brain” (Scientific Learning Corporation, 2010) through individualized games and exercises, and acoustically modified (reduced, then increased) speech. Chall's Development of Reading (1983) theory supported four research questions that addressed FFW intervention and its effects on students with Individual Education Plans (IEPs) and gender, as measured by the Dynamic Indicator of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) and Gates-McGinitie Reading Tests (GMRT) instruments.

Statistical analysis revealed the non-FFW participants demonstrated significantly more growth in reading achievement in nearly every measure. An Analysis of Covariance (ANCOVA), which significantly controlled for pretreatment differences, revealed that FFW participants scored significantly lower on nearly every reading assessment (DIBELS ORF, DIBELS RTF, GMRT Word Decoding, GMRT Word Knowledge, and GMRT Total). A comparison of growth scores for the groups using t-test of independent samples indicated that the non-FFW group showed significantly more growth than the FFW group in DIBELS RTF, GMRT Word Decoding, GMRT Word Knowledge, and GMRT Total. Two-way Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) examined the treatment in relation to the factors of IEP and gender. Results indicated that FFW participation did not contribute to significant growth in reading achievement in students without an IEP; in addition, FFW did not show promising growth for either gender.

This investigation suggests FFW computer-based intervention was not successful in yielding significant gains in reading achievement as a “one size fits all” intervention. Students receiving traditional teacher-led small group reading instruction demonstrated significantly more growth. The results suggest FFW may be effective for shorter implementation periods or very specific groups of learners, but not in long term global implementation. Schools may find investment in quality professional development for teachers of reading to yield greater gains in student reading achievement.