I am writing to you from 40,000 feet on my way back from Louisiana and a visit with a school district with our Kurzweil training team. It was a visit that was both discouraging and inspiring.
Here is the overall situation of the elementary school (and the discouraging part): 98% of the students are on free or reduced lunch (measure of poverty), students are constantly leaving and others are showing up for the first time as their families move around either because they are migrant workers or because they can’t find a permanent place to live, their budget has been cut two years in a row, the school may be closed by the district this year to reduce cost, and whether or not it is closed more budget cuts loom so everyone’s job is uncertain. Yet the students come to school smiling, and their principal has delayed retirement to fight for their success.
The principal is a big believer in Kurzweil and has made it part of her plan for improving reading and writing skills. I watched Kurzweil being used in a third grade classroom, a fifth grade classroom, and with a small SPED class. The skills of the students were mixed, but they all used it with purpose, and the leadership and teachers in the school believe in its power to help their students. Two weeks ago they took their state standard tests, and they all hope and believe their results will show the benefits of using Kurzweil in all of their classes.
While I was talking with the principal, she told me the story of one of her students. Elisa (an assumed name for her privacy) was home schooled by her mother for two years because she wasn’t learning to read and her mother was afraid that the public schools wouldn’t teach her and that Elisa would suffer both academically and socially as a result. After two years she still wasn’t reading and her mom changed strategies. She registered her in the public elementary school, Elisa failed for the first year but with the help of a specialist, they realized that Elisa was dyslexic, and started her using Kurzweil actively. Elisa’s parents installed it at home, and before long her siblings were using it too. In the following year (this year), Elisa went from essentially illiterate to the top of her class in terms of literacy skills. One year! Her progress was so dramatic that it earned her a Hero Award by their school district.
I was privileged to spend a half hour talking to Elisa and her mother; they told us about how much she enjoyed reading now and how much Kurzweil has helped her. Her mom, who is clearly a great advocate, was effusive. Everyone in her family are avid readers, and Elisa could never participate. She told us about dropping Elisa off in the first year of public school and how Elisa and her mom would both cry every day from the frustrations they were experiencing. She told us about finding Kurzweil and how that changed everything. She thanked all of us for what we do.
This is who we work for. This is why we do what we do.
General Manager, Kurzweil Education Systems and IntelliTools, Inc.