The Education Innovator #20
Volume III
Archived Information

The Education Innovator
 May 31, 2005 • Number 20
 Share this page Share this page
  Past issues
What's New
U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings leads U.S. delegation to a meeting of the G8 and BMENA; new National Center for Special Education Research established; Assistant Deputy Secretary Rees announces Constitution Day; Florida Public School Choice Consortium, Inc. posts new website and hosts conference; Innovations in Civic Participation highlights education programs; American School Board Journal publishes report on effective leadership training; Southern Regional Education Board issues study on internship programs for school leaders; StandardsWork to host Parent Conference on School Restructuring; and Virtual Pre-K updates its free website and offers information about its National Network.
Innovations in the News
The College Board re-examines Advanced Placement classes; plus information about supplemental educational services, teacher quality and development, and technology.

Failure Free Reading Reaches Out to a Range of Literacy Abilities
Each afternoon, fourth-grader "David" came home from school and was frustrated by his homework. He knew there were words inside his books, but he could not understand them, until, during the spring semester, he enrolled in a free, after school tutoring program called Failure Free Reading. The program's facilitator helped David learn new vocabulary words and practice reading exercises using a combination of interactive computer software and paper and pencil reinforcement activities. After one year, David began to read chapter books and moved out of the remedial classes that had characterized his language arts education. Since its inception in 1988, Failure Free Reading has helped David and others among the estimated 440,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade who began with a total reading vocabulary of less than 50 words and were in the lowest 15 percent of the literacy range.

Failure Free Reading targets students who are considered at-risk for education failure, who are nonreaders or have special education needs, or who are learning English as a second language. The program is an approved supplemental educational services provider in 43 states. Students from low-income families who attend schools in need of improvement are eligible for free tutoring services, such as those provided by Failure Free Reading, under the No Child Left Behind Act.

The program's main goal is to provide students with the opportunity and the skills to read fluently and with full comprehension. Failure Free's motto is "read faster, comprehend higher, and do more." As the name of the program implies, all students who enroll are expected to learn to read regardless of their previous abilities. The program provides access to services and interventions for any student, until the student successfully completes the program. Failure Free is designed to complement existing reading curricula in the classroom, especially for students who have not responded to conventional instructional or remedial techniques in reading. Trained teachers, teaching assistants, or volunteers facilitate Failure Free in the classroom or in an after school setting with one student or a small group. The program provides its facilitators with teachers' guides that contain activities in phonics, reading, writing, and vocabulary.

When each student enrolls, facilitators administer a diagnostic test using software that instantly determines the student's literacy level. Based on the results of the test, students are placed at their highest reading potential. Facilitators then monitor students' progress and generate reports using the diagnostic software. The new version of the software is designed to give "real time" assessment involving "time on task" and a detailed item analysis. The reports are sent home to families in Parental Communications Packets in English or Spanish, which contain guidelines for how parents can support their child's reading development at home.

Failure Free integrates facilitator-directed instruction, print materials, and talking software to form its "three Ts of success": teaching, text, and technology. Students work with facilitators during scripted lessons that follow a specific format that stresses language development, questioning, and explicit instruction. The facilitator begins by orally presenting a strong language development lesson that introduces key vocabulary terms and phrases. Then the facilitator guides students through a reading fluency exercise based on teacher modeling, repeated readings, and building on what has been learned before.

Students then read independently from thematic story booklets containing reading passages that control for three critical elements: repetition, sentence structure, and story content. For young readers, unique electronic books, called Phonics for the Real World, help children associate letters with their sound values. For example, Be Safe on the Bus introduces students to the "B" sound, while All Sorts of Sports helps students recognize the "or" sound. These short, nonfiction narratives are written in a logical sequence using mainly declarative sentences that are free of complex language.

Older students, who finish Failure Free's core curriculum, can choose from 72 nonfiction titles that help students connect new words to familiar subjects, contain more complex sentences, and draw their content from a wider range of subjects, including social studies and science.

Each Failure Free lesson, involves the use of interactive, "talking" software that helps students focus on comprehension, vocabulary, spelling, and composition. This software allows students to read a story on their computer screens, answer selected comprehension questions, and then perform reinforcement word recognition and spelling activities. If students make errors, the software orally reviews the answers, letting them hear where they made mistakes so they can make the corrections at their own pace.

For English language learners (ELLs), the software's audio output can toggle to Spanish while the words on the computer screen remain in English, making it easier for ELL students to transition from hearing English to recognizing printed English words. Research indicates that ELL students perform best with systematic practice. These students generally require a minimum of 75 to 100 exposures to new language for them to successfully master reading content.

Seven peer-reviewed studies on Failure Free Reading have been published in national and international journals. Failure Free Reading also has been evaluated in over 80 studies involving 8,000 students. The University of Connecticut's CONNSense project, which examines the effectiveness of software for special education students, gave Failure Free its highest rating. At Coronado High School in El Paso, Texas, students who used Failure Free outscored a control group who did not use the program by 2.77 years of growth, as measured by the Stanford Achievement Test. As a result of such positive findings, the Education Commission of the States (ECS) has recognized Failure Free as a "promising practice in reading."

Resources: Note: Failure Free Reading is being rigorously evaluated by the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences as part of the National Title I Evaluation.


What's New
From the U.S. Department of Education

U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings led the U.S. delegation to the first-ever meeting of education ministers from the countries of the G8 and the Broader Middle East and North Africa Initiative (BMENA). During her visit, the Secretary met with Jordan's Queen Rania Al-Abdullah and Minister of Education Khaled Toukan and observed classes at the Iskan Al-Jamiaa Discovery School and a kindergarten funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (AID). (May 23)

A new office has been established within the Institute of Education Sciences: the National Center for Special Education Research. The new center will sponsor rigorous research aimed at improving education results and services for students with disabilities and will evaluate the implementation and effectiveness of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Edward J. Kame'enui has been named the first Commissioner for Special Education Research. (May18)

From the Office of Innovation and Improvement

Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement Nina S. Rees announced that educational institutions receiving federal funding are required to hold an educational program about the U.S. Constitution each year on September 17th. To celebrate "Constitution Day," schools can use information on government agency websites, including those of the Library of Congress and the National Archives. For more information, email (May 23)


The Florida Public School Choice Consortium, Inc. (FPSCC) has a new website. The FPSCC is a nonprofit organization that provides information about school choice and assists members in implementing state and federal requirements related to it. The new site includes information about the Inaugural Florida School Choice Conference on June 13-14, 2005 in Tampa, Florida. At the conference, some of the OII-grantee Voluntary Public School Choice districts in Florida will share best practices in transportation, diversity, and equity, as well as strategies to improve students' academic achievement. (May 31 )

Closing the Achievement Gap

Innovations in Civic Participation has released Transforming Communities Through Service, which showcases the most innovative AmeriCorps programs from 38 states. The report includes profiles of 51 programs, 22 of which are in education. One such program, the nonprofit Admission Possible, provides ACT test preparation and financial consulting to economically disadvantaged students in Minnesota to help them gain admission to college. This year, 99 percent of Admission Possible seniors were accepted into college. (May 2005)


A report by the American School Board Journal stresses the importance of support networks for principals download filesPDF, (197K), According to the report, school boards and institutions of higher education should focus on creating strong induction systems for new principals in order to retain them. This was also one of the findings in OII's Innovations in Education: Innovative Pathways to School Leadership book. (Spring 2005)

A new study by the Southern Regional Education Board acknowledges the importance of authentic leadership experiences for aspiring principals during their internships. The study encourages universities and school districts to collaborate in creating internship programs that provide hands-on experiences, supervision by experienced mentors and leaders, constructive feedback about their performance, and rigorous evaluations. (May 25)

Parental Involvement

StandarsWork's OII-funded Parent Information and Resource Center will host a Parent Conference on School Restructuring from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 4th in Washington, D.C. To learn more or register for the event, email Sabrina Sutton or call StandardWork's Parent Information and Resource Center at 1-888-275-7795.


Virtual Pre-K (VPK), which offers a series of multimedia programs that build on existing classroom themes and curricula to connect children's experiences to their homes and communities, has updated its website. The colorful site includes free access to lesson plans, activities parents can do with their children, and information about how to join the Virtual Pre-K National Network. (See January 31st edition of The Education Innovator.) (May 31)


Innovations in the News

Advanced Placement
Over the next year, researchers at the College Board, the organization responsible for the administration of Advanced Placement (AP), will re-examine the content of some of its courses—U.S. history, biology, chemistry, physics, European history, world history, and environmental science—and will identify college courses to determine best practices in teaching these subjects. The "best practices" identified in the study could be incorporated into the corresponding AP classes during the 2008-2009 academic year. [More-The New York Times] (May 25)

Supplemental Educational Services
After 35 years in the classroom, Connie Stilwell is retiring, but she is not forgetting about her students. The Westwood View (KS) fourth grade teacher is going to continue to pass on her expertise in the Shawnee Mission school district through a new supplemental educational services program she created with her husband. The program, Bluestem Learning LLC, will take active and retired teachers and connect them to students and schools to make sure students live up to their district curriculum and state standards. The program will offer services before and after school and during the summer and will provide professional development for teachers. [More-The Kansas City Star] (May 25)

Teacher Quality and Development
A new Virginia initiative aims to bring quality teachers into middle schools to teach mathematics. The initiative will pay teachers an annual bonus of $10,000 as an incentive to assist 70 of some of the state's middle schools that have not met federal or state requirements in mathematics. Schools accepted into the program, called the Virginia Middle School Teacher Corps, will be able to use a list of expert teachers compiled by the Virginia Department of Education to find a match for job openings in their math departments. [More-Education Week] (May 25)

Many school districts in North Carolina will share funds from The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to help them create small, technology-themed high schools. The funds will be used to open schools based on the New Technology High School in Napa (CA). The schools will focus on a traditional curriculum in core subjects, but students will work in teams during study exercises to tackle real world problems, much like colleagues in an office. The initiative is part of the North Carolina New Schools Project, which is slated to create more than 100 new or restructured high schools across the state. [More-eSchool News] (May 20)


Print this page Printable view Bookmark  and Share
Last Modified: 08/13/2009