Speech Recognition Technology Helps Laredo ISD Improve Reading Skills

Laredo, TX. May 14, 2007–This academic year, schools in Laredo ISD have incorporated Soliloquy Reading Assistant, a computer-based speech recognition technology program, into their curricula in an effort to improve Special Education students´ reading fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. All twenty elementary schools and four middle schools in the district are using the program in their resource classrooms.

"We began district-wide usage of Soliloquy Reading Assistant in September," said Alma Rodriguez, Assistive Technology Coordinator. "We needed this program because over ninety percent of the students in the district speak Spanish at home, so it is challenging for many to practice their English reading skills with their parents. This program is giving them the feedback they need to develop fluency in English. In less than a year of using the program, the students in all grade levels are experiencing significant improvements. They are learning to love reading!"

Special Education students in all of the twenty elementary, four middle and three high schools are using the program an average of three days per week for about 25 minutes per session. Students use Soliloquy Reading Assistant by reading e-books into a computer using a standard headset and microphone. Through a proprietary speech-recognition technology, the software is able to "listen" and recognize when readers hesitate or make mistakes on specific words. When a student struggles, the program assists or corrects the reader by repeating the word clearly while creating a record of it for the teacher to review. Vocabulary assistance and comprehension questions are other features of the program. When students do not know a word´s meaning, they can click on it for a context-sensitive definition, pronunciation example and photographic memory aid. As the students read, comprehension questions are presented to ensure understanding. Students can also have the story read to them, and compare the model with their own version to improve pronunciation. English Language Learners benefit from Soliloquy because they can spend extra time listening to, and reading vocabulary words in context.

"We are seeing great results," said Oralia Hinojosa-Cortez, Instructional Specialist at Katherine Tarver Elementary School. "The students are not only learning how to read better, but they are truly enjoying it."

The four middle schools that have implemented the program into their curricula are experiencing similar results. Sixth grade Special Education students at Cigarroa Middle School reading at the first and second grade level, for example, have made so much progress that they have become "Spotlight Readers" in a program which involves middle school students reading to younger students in elementary schools.

"I am extremely proud of my students," said Rogelio Saucedo, Sixth Grade Special Education Teacher at Cigarroa. "At the beginning of the year, their reading levels were low. They lacked the confidence and motivation to read books. After being introduced to Soliloquy and acquiring the necessary reading skills, students became aware of their potential. This allowed them the opportunity to read to the elementary school students in the Spotlight Readers program. It´s been very rewarding for me to watch their growth."

Alma Rodriguez added, "The accomplishments at Cigarroa Middle School are really extraordinary. We wish that students all over Texas could have the same opportunity to overcome their limitations and to embrace reading."

At Martin High School, Soliloquy Reading Assistant is being used in a program intended for students who have behavioral issues. Norma Garza, the teacher in charge of the program, has noticed that Soliloquy Reading Assistant has helped students improve their reading skills, which has enhanced their self esteem.

"Often times, kids with learning difficulties are out of control," said Garza. "If you want to change their behavior, you have to make sure that their learning challenges are being addressed. Soliloquy Reading Assistant is helping these students´ behavior improve by bringing them toward their grade level in reading. Also, they truly enjoy the different reading materials."

"We are really pleased that Laredo ISD is experiencing this level of success with our program," said Jon Bower, CEO of Soliloquy Learning, the maker of Soliloquy Reading Assistant. "It´s an excellent example of how the program works for every age and for students with different needs."

Soliloquy Reading Assistant is available for students in grades 1-12, plus adult remedial reading programs. For elementary students (grades 1-5), reading content is drawn from children´s stories, poems and expository passages to build literature appreciation. For secondary students (5-12), content is drawn from science and social studies subjects required by many state standards, providing experience with the content to improve comprehension later on. Since its launch in 2002, various versions of Soliloquy Reading Assistant have been used by over 5,000 schools across the country. For more information, visit www.soliloquylearning.com, or call 1-877-235-6036.

About Soliloquy Learning, Inc.

Founded in 2000, Soliloquy Learning has pioneered new and effective methods for improving reading and spoken language skills. The company´s flagship product, Soliloquy Reading Assistant, provides one-on-one reading support, using proprietary speech recognition technology to monitor and assist students through Guided Oral Reading, the research-proven best practice for fostering reading progress beyond the basics. Design has been led by literacy expert, Dr. Marilyn Jager Adams. Research on the efficacy of Soliloquy Reading Assistant has been sponsored through research grants from NICHD and IES . Soliloquy Learning is a privately held company based in Waltham, Mass. For more information visit: http://www.soliloquylearning.com.

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