More information on Fast ForWord can be found at:
http://www.scilearn.com/products (The Scientific Learning Corporation)
Fast ForWord is a computer-based reading program that is intended to help students strengthen their cognitive skills necessary for later success in reading and math (U.S. Dept. of Education (DOE), 2013). This intervention is intended to be part of a daily routine for students, for at least 30 minutes over 4-16 weeks. At my site in Milford, only a few students receive this intervention, as part of Tier 3 services, and they go to a separate classroom during their “differentiation” time block in order to do so. I was able to observe two students independently working on the Fast ForWord to Reading program under supervision of an intervention specialist, which is one of the series available under the Fast ForWord name, in one of the first days at my practicum site. This specific series focuses on “reading skills such as sound-letter associations, phonological awareness, word recognition, knowledge of English-language conventions, vocabulary, and comprehension” and is highly adaptable based on student responses (U.S. DOE, 2013, p.1).
In terms of evidence base, the What Works Clearinghouse’s assessment of Fast ForWord is that it has positive (medium-to-large) effects on alphabetics, minimal positive impact on reading fluency (small), and mixed effects on comprehension (medium-to-large). One major potential flaw of this intervention is its cost for these somewhat mixed effects. Each license for the reading program costs upwards of $500, meaning that this is a significant investment in the program for the school. This cost is a significant assessment for mixed results and should be used with caution, especially if the product is being shopped by a publisher who may over-emphasize its effects on working memory.
U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, What Works Clearinghouse. (2013, Mar.). Intervention Report: Fast ForWord. Retrieved from http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/pdf/intervention_reports/wwc_ffw_031913.pdf