Test Scores & Reading Growth

How FrontRow helps with test scores

A FrontRow sound system lets students throughout the classroom hear without undue effort — leaving them mentally more ready and able to learn. Numerous studies have reported tremendous benefits from FrontRow implementations, including greater student achievement, easier classroom management, and improved teacher energy.

If you're concerned about test scores, attentiveness, and equity — equal access to the teacher's voice — you'll want to have a look at our detailed sections on these topics.

Students in FrontRow classrooms are twice
as likely to achieve high-level reading growth

Graph showing how FrontRow improves reading comprehension

In a five-month study of first-grade students, the FrontRow classrooms had twice as many children achieving significant literacy gains.

A number of studies show that students perform better academically in classrooms with a FrontRow sound system. For example, in a five-month study of 85 research and 81 control first-graders in the Broward County (Florida) Public School System, students in classrooms using FrontRow achieved significantly greater (p<.027) IRI-measured literacy gains. In fact, they were twice as likely to jump seven or more reading levels.

Similarly, in research from five schools in Rotorua (New Zealand) nearly 630 Kindergarten through fifth-grade students were studied in classrooms with and without FrontRow sound systems. Children in FrontRow classrooms showed significantly better listening comprehension, reading comprehension, reading vocabulary, and even math scores on Progressive Achievement Tests.

Further Reading

Why FrontRow improves literacy

Phonemic awareness — the ability to distinguish individual speech sounds — is a basic requirement for developing young skillful readers. It’s hard to be aware of phonemes if you’re not consistently and clearly hearing them. Because FrontRow sound systems increase speech clarity and phonemic awareness, they can significantly enhance the effectiveness of reading and spelling instruction.

The research on academic improvement due to voice amplification

The rationale for the use of sound amplification in regular classes is based on an extensive body of literature documenting a higher incidence of ear infections (and related hearing loss) in young children, greater difficulty understanding speech in the presence of noise, and immature listening skills related to neuromaturation of the auditory system well into adolescence: (Bluestone, 2004; Moore, 2002; Nelson & Soli, 2000; Gil-Loyzaga, 2005; Stelmachowicz, Hoover, Lewis, Kortekaas, & Pittman, 2000).

As well, studies have found that recommended acoustical standards for noise levels and reverberation times are not achieved in the majority of classrooms (Bess, Sinclair & Riggs, 1984; Crandell & Smaldino, 1994; Crandell & Smaldino, 1995; Crandell, Smaldino & Flexer, 1999; Pekkarinen & Viljanen, 1991).

Researchers have argued that the intersection of often poor classroom acoustics, the inherent high demands on listening and auditory processing in classrooms, and the immature listening skills of children due to neuromaturation, create barriers to learning that place all children at educational risk (Anderson, 2004; Flexer, 2004).

Signal to noise ratios (ie. the level of the teacher’s voice compared to the level of the background noise) can be improved through the use of classroom sound amplification, resulting in clearer speech signals (Larsen & Blair, 2008).

Research with hearing children indicates better ability to discriminate words and spoken language more accurately with the use of a classroom sound amplification system than without (Arnold & Canning, 1999; Prendergast, 2005).

Studies have found improved scores in dictated spelling tests (Burgener & Deichmann, 1982; Zabel & Taylor, 1993).

Chelius (2004) reported that students in grades 1, 3, 4 and 5 in amplified classrooms achieved better standardized test scores in early literacy, on the Developmental Reading Assessment and in reading fluency than did students in unamplified classrooms. Similarly, a longitudinal study by Gertel, McCarty & Schoff (2004) found that students in amplified classrooms scored 10% better on a standardized achievement test than students in unamplified classrooms. Darai (2000) found first grade students in amplified classrooms to show greater literacy gains as measured by a reading inventory. Long term outcome measures from the Mainstream Amplification Resource Room Study Project (MARRS) indicated better scores on standardized tests of listening and language skills for kindergarten students, and better scores in the areas of math concepts, math computation and reading for grade 2 and 3 students (Flexer, 1989; Ray, 1992).

Massie & Dillon (2006b) reported statistically significant improvement in ratings of attention,communication and classroom behaviour in amplified vs unamplified classrooms, and noted that teachers considered that "sound-field amplification facilitated peer interaction, increased verbal involvement in classroom discussion, and promoted a more proactive and confident role in classroom discussion” (p. 89). Wilson (1989) compared classroom amplification and teacher training in language development with respect to changes in language skills for children enrolled in Head Start programs, and found that while neither sound field amplification nor teacher training alone resulted in measurable changes in language scores for these children, the combination of amplification and training did.

Flexer, Biley, Hinkley, Harkema, & Holcomb (2002) studied changes in phonological awareness skills in 3 groups of kindergarten children; one group taught with the standard curriculum, a second group taught with the standard curriculum plus targeted phonological awareness instruction, and a third group taught with the standard curriculum plus phonological awareness instruction in an amplified classroom. While both the second and third groups showed higher post-test scores on a standardized test of phonological awareness, the third group from the amplified classroom showed the highest scores. At the end of the first semester of kindergarten, 57% of children in the control group and 43% of the children in the direct instruction group obtained scores on the phonological measures which placed them “at risk” for reading development, compared to 7% of the group receiving direct instruction and sound field amplification, although small sample sizes precluded further statistical analysis. The authors suggested that the addition of sound field amplification to target phonological awareness instruction “allows phonemic detail to reach the brains of children continuously” (p. 44).

Allcock (1999) also reported improvement in scores on standardized tests of phonological processing, with 74% of children in amplified classrooms achieving an improvement of 1 stanine or more, versus 46% in unamplified classrooms.

Rubin, Aquino-Russell, & Flagg-Williams (2007) conducted a study of 60 New Brunswick classrooms, grades 1 through 3, in which 31 classrooms received sound field amplification systems, and 29 served as a control group. Using the Revised Environmental Communication Profile (as described in Massie, Theodoros, McPherson, & Smaldino, 2004), they found statistically significant increases in student responses to teacher statements, decreases in the number of teacher repetitions, and fewer student initiated communications with peers during instruction (ie. fewer instances of students speaking amongst themselves during teacher instruction) in the amplified classrooms. The findings that teachers needed less time to direct and maintain attention was particularly strong for kindergarten children. Teachers commented that sound field amplification helped make classrooms more inclusive because all students were more engaged, and that use of the pass-around microphone increased student participation, confidence, and empowerment.


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