Can Training the Brain Help Struggling Louisville Students’ Performance?

Louisville public school students are participating in a new program that proponents says will strengthen memory processing and create lasting effects for how students learn.

The program, LearningRx, has existed thorough Seven Counties Services since 2011. It focuses on skills tested for IQ,—such as long and short term memory, visual and auditory processing, and logic and reasoning, said Michelle Wright, executive director of Louisville’s LearningRX center.

“It’s a game changer,” she said. “It will change the whole trajectory of their lives and when you change those underlining skills you see effects in things like behavior, quite often, because a student who is struggling doesn’t want to go to school because it’s hard.”

Later this month, LearningRX staff will begin testing the 28 students from Atkinson and Portland elementary schools who are participating in the program. They will record base-line results, Wright said.

“Sometimes all cognitive skills are weak and sometimes two are weak,” Wright said. “Then we can begin to create a program that is very individualized and specifically pinpoint these areas of weakness.”

Over the next year, students will train with an instructor for three hours a week and will also use the computer for separate cognitive training,” Wright said.

“The training looks like one-on-one with the same trainer throughout the program who is creating, essentially, a lesson plan. The best analogy I can really give is: This is personal training for the brain just like you would train your body at the gym,” she said.

The results could help change student behavior and matters, such as attendance, that aren’t directly related to academic performance  but are often the result of struggling learners, Wright said. The lessons that LearningRx provides don’t have anything to do with common core or school curriculum but it should help students strengthen their minds, she says.

“We would fully expect that they would be able to absorb that information and perform significantly better on achievement tests and things that schools use for measurements,” she said.

Participants were chosen by JCPS staff, including the school principals. There will be a range of student types but most will fall between the 25th and 50th percentile range, which Wright says is the group that should see the largest gains.  

Louisville’s two LearningRX centers have served roughly 150 people so far, a majority are students in 3rd through 8th grades, Wright says. But the program isn’t limited to children and students. It also serves anyone with traumatic brain injury, attention deficit disorder, stroke recovery and memory health, she said.

“Those using the Louisville LearningRX centers are always asked for improvements when they come into the center and that will continue in JCPS,” Wright said.

“Something they’ve seen in their life they can do faster, better, easier. And we’ll be asking these JCPS children for the same thing.”

The company has been franchising since 2002 and has around 86 centers around the country, Wright said.

This will be the first time LearningRX will partner with Jefferson County Public Schools through a $100,000 grant from the  Gheens Foundation. 

(Image via Shutterstock)

Devin Katayama

Devin Katayama host middays for WFPL and reports on education and other Louisville issues.

@DevinWFPL

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