NACD/Wasatch Peak Academy School Model Program

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Wasatch Peak Academy

Davis County School District, Utah
2007/2008 School Year

(Appendices featuring additional information and statistics available as PDF Download HERE.)
wpaWasatch Peak Academy is a public charter school in North Salt Lake, Utah. At the request of the principal and special education teacher, the National Association for Child Development (NACD) created a school model program for Wasatch Peak Academy, intended to increase the overall developmental and academic function of identified special education students. A second, less intense part of the program targeted increasing processing abilities of the entire school through the use of NACD’s Simply Smarter online software program. (See Appendix A  for the WPA/NACD school plan.) The results at the end of the school year showed significant improvements in the identified students’ processing abilities, as well as their reading and math scores.

Wasatch Peak Academy is a K-6 charter school with a maximum enrollment of 300 students, and with a faculty and administration of 24. WPA is a public school. It emphasizes mastery of reading and math, offers a bilingual education for all grades, and provides the core curriculum as outlined by the Utah State Office of Education. The curriculum used consists of Saxon Math, Exemplary Center for Reading Instruction (ECRI), and the Core Knowledge Series by E.D. Hirsch. In the 2007/2008 school year, there were 21 students who were receiving special education services. Most of the students had a classification of Learning Disabled. A few had a diagnosis of High Functioning Autism, and a few others had an Otherwise Health Impairment classification. For these students, the special education teacher, Mrs. Andrea Johnson, had been using Wilson Phonics, Great Leaps Fluency Builders, and Reading for All Learners, in addition to the curriculum used by the other teachers.

The National Association for Child Development was founded in 1979 by Robert Doman, Jr. NACD is an international organization with 18 chapters around the United States and in India. Over tens of thousands clients have been served since 1979, ranging from severely involved to highly capable. They include, but are not limited to, Gifted/Accelerated, typical, LD, Dyslexia, ADD, ADHD, NLD, Developmental Delay, PDD, Autism, Aspergers, Down Syndrome, Williams Syndrome, Retts Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, and Brain Injury. NACD is an eclectic organization utilizing over 3,000 different techniques and methodologies. NACD has designed and supervised over 30 million hours of individual developmental, therapeutic, and educational intervention. Staff include educators, Speech and Language Pathologists, Occupational Therapists, Family and Development specialists, Curriculum and Instruction specialists, along with our Medical Director, Director of Research, and Director of Nutritional Intervention. NACD utilizes a unique approach to child development: TDI Targeted Developmental Intervention®. These interventions for children and adults are targeted because they are specific to the individual. There is no “one size fits all approach,” as every child is unique.

Targeted Developmental Interventions provide specific neurological input to improve:

  • Language development – receptive and expressive
  • Social interaction
  • Play skills
  • Tactility and sensory dysfunction
  • Auditory function
  • Visual function
  • Fine and gross motor skills
  • Cognitive function
  • Academic function

NACD assesses current developmental and academic function and designs a program of exercises or activities (TDI) to help the individual progress. Our proven methodologies are the result of decades of clinical application and refinement, making NACD a leader in doing what works for children with developmental and educational issues.

Due to her frustration with lack of progress in some of her students, Mrs. Johnson approached us for our help in October of 2007. Mrs. Johnson had heard about NACD through her experience as a provider for The Listening Program, a sound therapy program that NACD originally helped to create. Mrs. Johnson selected 18 of the 21 students to participate in the NACD program. In order for the individual students to be successful, we needed to have parent participation, as they would be helping with the implementation of the program. The 18 selected had the support needed at home. All parents were required to listen to NACD’s Guide to Child Development and Education CDs, as well as fill out NACD’s client history and application form. Evaluations were conducted by the NACD staff at our national office in Ogden the last two weeks of October 2007. The students ranged from 1st to 5th grade. At the time, fifteen of the students received pullout for reading, and five of those students also received assistance for math. The remaining three were on grade level academically, but they received extra assistance as needed for behavior, language, and social skills.

Following the evaluations, NACD designed individualized programs for all 18 students and provided the families and Mrs. Johnson with a DVD for each child’s program. The DVD provided instruction on how to implement the suggested program activities. The programs consisted of various auditory and visual sequential processing activities, ongoing sound therapy that Mrs. Johnson was already utilizing, fine and gross motor activities, as well as academic recommendations. An NACD representative traveled to WPA a minimum of one time per month through the entire school year to assist Mrs. Johnson and her aides on the implementation of the programs. Programs were done 1:1 with the students, as well as in group settings when possible. The NACD representative also communicated often with the parents to follow-up regarding what they were able to do at home. Parents found implementing the program at home difficult due to the amount of homework the students were also given to complete. NACD was able to convince WPA to limit the amount of homework given to these students in order to carry out the home program successfully. The majority of the 18 students received about 50% of their program on a monthly basis. During the holidays of 2007, the parents did their best to keep up with some of the program activities.

A second round of evaluations took place in late February of 2008. These evaluations were conducted at NACD as well as at WPA. The same areas were evaluated, and the same standardized test scores administered. Parents’ comments on their child’s function were very positive. Some are listed below:

“His coordination has greatly improved. His fit throwing has definitely decreased plus his ability to stay in his chair.”

“I see more confidence in him at mastering a variety of math problems. Reading skill has improved and comprehension is gradually improving as well.”

“Reading with enthusiasm, voice inflection, and more confident with school work.”

“His overall grades have come up. Socially he is acting a little more his age group and more confidence with himself.”

“Reading MUCH better! Math has improved as well.”

“He is learning more quickly and retaining the information.”

“He has learned his letters, his numbers, sounds, and is reading!!!”

“___ has improved leaps and bounds! I have seen changes in everything. She is reading on a 2.6 grade level, her attention is better, her memory is better, and her self-esteem is so much better. She sounds out words and remembers them consistently.”

These comments were after only three months of NACD program implementation. Following the evaluations in February of 2008, the 18 children had their programs modified based on their changes in function. New DVDs were provided to the parents and to Mrs. Johnson to view, and then they implemented the programs at the school and at home for the rest of the school year.

NACD and Wasatch Peak Academy used several standardized achievement tests to determine progress with the project. Mrs. Johnson administered the SCAN-C test, subtests in math and word recognition of the Wide Range Achievement Test, and the state standardized yearly tests, the CRT. NACD also administered testing of reading comprehension with the Peabody Individualized Achievement Test to those students above a 3.5 grade reading level.

SCAN-C

The following description of the SCAN-C and its subtests was taken from the test’s manual:

The SCAN-C Test for Auditory Processing Disorders in Children–Revised is an individually administered test used to identify children between ages 5 years, 0 months and 11 years, 11months who have auditory processing disorders. A revision of the original SCAN published in 1986, SCAN-C subtests were chosen to obtain information about areas that have been demonstrated to be among the most relevant to understanding auditory processing abilities. SCAN-C assesses the perception stage of auditory processing, which is pre-cognitive. The test requires that the child repeat stimulus words or sentences, but the child is not required to understand the concept of “same or different,” or to understand at a cognitive level the phonetic or phonologic differences that exist among speech sounds. This type of test avoids the cross modality and cognitive aspects of pointing to a picture in response to a word.

SCAN·C includes four subtests that represent functional auditory abilities in everyday listening situations:

  • Filtered Words Subtest in which the subject is asked to repeat words that sound muffled. The test stimuli consist of monosyllabic words that have been low-pass filtered at 1000 Hz with a roll-off of 32 dB per octave. The test enables you to assess a child’s ability to understand distorted speech, considered effective in identifying central auditory processing disorders.
  • Auditory Figure-Ground Subtest that evaluates the subject’s ability to understand words in the presence of background noise. Monosyllabic words were recorded in the presence of multi-talker speech babble noise at +8 dB signal-to-noise ratio. Poor performance on repeating the stimulus words may indicate a delay in development of the auditory system.
  • Competing Words Subtest in which the subject hears two words simultaneously—one monosyllabic word presented to each ear—and is instructed to repeat the words presented in each ear. The test enables you to assess “ear advantage.” Poor performance may indicate a delay in maturation, underlying neurological disorganization, or damage to auditory pathways. Abnormalities shown by dichotic word test results are related to a wide range of specific disabilities, including CAPD, language disability, learning disability, and reading disorder.
  • Competing Sentences Subtest in which pairs of sentences unrelated in topic are presented to the right and left ears. The subject is instructed to direct attention to the stimuli presented in one ear while ignoring the other. Like the Competing Words subtest, the results are used to determine levels of auditory maturation, hemispheric dominance for language, and to identify disordered or damaged central auditory pathways. The advantage of testing binaural separation with both word and sentence stimuli is to compare findings obtained with both simple and more complex linguistic levels of auditory stimuli.

SCAN-C provides several important scores including subtest raw scores, subtest and composite standard scores, percentile ranks, and cumulative prevalence of ear advantage for the Competing Words subtest. Ear advantage scores are powerful indicators of hemispheric dominance for language and neurologically based language/learning disorders. The Competing Words subtest yields two ear advantage scores—one for the Right-Ear First Task and one for the Left-Ear First Task. The information presented on cumulative prevalence for ear advantage provides you with a means for examining how common or uncommon a particular child’s ear advantage score is. The more extreme or atypical the ear advantage score, the greater the possibility of an auditory-based disorder such as a language or learning disability.

Overall, the 15 students that were given the test at the beginning, then end of year, showed substantial improvement. Nine of the students at the beginning of the year were considered in the disordered or borderline disordered range. Six of those nine improved up to the “normal” range. One jumped from the disordered range to the borderline range. The others showed improvement in their scores within the same level. The remaining students already tested in the normal range, but they all improved in their scores. See Appendix B for their scores.

Mrs. Johnson administered the math and word recognition tests of the Wide Range Achievement Test as her quarterly progress monitor. Fifteen students were given the word recognition test each quarter, and six of the eighteen students were tested in math. Results are shown in Appendix C. Of the fifteen in reading, all showed an academic year’s growth or more within the seven months of NACD program implementation. Eight jumped between two and three academic years in their reading ability. Of the five tested for math, all demonstrated over a grade level jump during the seven months. Three showed a two-year jump within the NACD program time frame.

NACD also administered a reading comprehension subtest of the Peabody Individualized Achievement Test to six of the eighteen students. Results are shown in Appendix D. This test was administered twice, the first in October of 2007 during the initial evaluations, and again the end of January 2008. Five of the six increased their grade level by one to three years within those three months.

Finally, we reviewed the students’ state standard Criterion Referenced Test (CRT) scores. Overall, Wasatch Peak students with disabilities group increased their language arts testing by 10% the 2007/08 school year, compared to the 2006/07 school year. Their math scores went up 5%. How did Wasatch Peak compare to the state average in these areas? In this same group, students with disabilities, WPA ranks 60% for Language Arts compared to the state average of 44%. In math, WPA ranks 55% compared to the 43% average. These scores and comparisons were given to Wasatch Peak Academy from the Utah State Office of Education. See Appendix E for these results.

Wasatch Peak Academy as an entire school participated in NACD’s Simply Smarter Project 9+/-2. In November of 2007, the staff, students, parents of students, and siblings participated in the project in order for us to collect more data on sequential processing. Sequential processing is the means by which we take in information and the basic mechanism we use to think and access our innate intelligence. It is typically measured by determining the length of a person’s digit span. Numbers are presented to a person either verbally at the rate of one per second, or in written form to view for three seconds, and the person is asked to say or record those numbers. Of more significance is a person’s working memory, which is their ability not only to process the information, but also to manipulate the information. Giving a reverse digit span tests this. The person is given a sequence of numbers, and the individual needs to recall the numbers in reverse order. Not only can sequential processing be measured, but most importantly it can be improved, often dramatically so. This was the case with our 18 students at Wasatch Peak Academy. After the school participated in the 15-minute online research project, the school utilized Simply Smarter for an entire year. Our eighteen students increased their auditory and visual sequential processing skills very quickly, utilizing Simply Smarter on average 2-3x/week, as well as practicing various sequencing activities with Mrs. Johnson during school hours. Their digit spans on Auditory Forward, Auditory Reverse, Visual Forward, and Visual Reverse are located in Appendix F.

Statistical analysis was conducted on our sample of 18 kids, comparing their increase in sequential processing abilities and academic function. For our sample, there was a moderate correlation between improvement in reverse auditory digit spans and improvement on their WRAT math scores. Change scores were also analyzed on the WRAT word recognition test. Those students who increased their reverse auditory digit span by more than two digits on average improved more in their word recognition test than students whose reverse digit span remained the same or increased by one. The mean improvement in months for word recognition for those children who increased their reverse auditory digit span by more than 2 digits was 18.17 months. The mean improvement in months for those students whose reverse auditory digit span stayed the same or increased by one digit was 17.75 months. The time frame of actual NACD program implementation was roughly seven months; so in both cases the amount of improvement was more than double what would typically be expected in the given time frame.

Statistical analysis was done on results of eleven students from our sample that participated in the CRT state standard tests. Comparisons were made of the students’ digit spans and their composite scores on the CRTs in Math and Language Arts. Those students who received a composite score of 3 or 4 in Math and in Language Arts had a higher reverse auditory digit span than those that had a 1 or 2 composite score. More specifically, those with 1 or a 2 score had an average of 1.5 reverse auditory digit span. Those students with a 3 or 4 score on the CRT had an average 5.0 reverse auditory digit span. Finally, analysis was done of Wasatch Peak Academy “typical” students in grades 2, 4, and the 5/6 split class, comparing their digit span scores taken from the project and their CRT scores in Language Arts and Math. This data showed the same result. The higher the reverse auditory digit span, the higher the students’ scores were on the CRT state standard tests. See Appendix G for these scores. All of our research on this sample of students, and the school as a whole, strongly suggests that as a child increases in sequential processing abilities, specifically reverse auditory digit spans, the better that child does academically.

Incidentally, Andrea Johnson received the Utah State Charter School Teacher of the Year award for the 2007/08 school year and was featured in Utah Woman magazine in their March 2008 issue.

“I am so happy that NACD decided to work with us, I have learned so much from them. They would come to our school and teach the kids and me. I saw significant progress with my students. Their academic scores increased and their gross and fine motor skills improved.  This is a great program that can change people’s lives. I loved having my students do simply smarter. In fact, I loved it so much the first thing I did at my new school was get my new students on the program.”
— Andrea Johnson, WPA special education teacher 2007/08

It was a pleasure working with Andrea and the staff at Wasatch Peak Academy. We especially enjoyed working with the students and parents. Their dedication to help their children succeed was unprecedented.

(Appendices featuring additional information and statistics available as PDF Download HERE.)

Reprinted by permission of The NACD Foundation, Volume 22 No. 9, 2009 ©NACD