Progressive Educators Offer Fresh Answers to Florida FCAT Crisis: Butterfly Effect Relieves Stress and Failure One Student at a Time

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Butterfly Effects is launching an intensified effort to prevent a repeat of last spring’s academic tragedy when failed FCATs prevented 6000 South Florida seniors from graduation and countless primary students from promotion. Despite opportunities to retake the test, students continue to fail over and over at an alarming rate. This past year, less than 40 percent of tenth graders passed the reading component of the test. Butterfly Effects, the Pompano based agency, which has rapidly grown to national prominence providing practical therapeutic and educational solutions to life’s most complex challenges has not forgotten its Florida roots. Addressing panic filled requests by parents, its eager to help local students conquer the dreaded test. Instead of repeating the same tired methods that leave students falling short with every retest, the agency's one-on-one tutors are taking a behavioral approach to reshape students' motivation and approach to the test. According to a Butterfly Effects representative, "Just like with any problem found on any FCAT exam, the answer become obvious when you finally understand the question. And in this case the problem is about behavior as much as academics."

At Butterfly Effects, frantic parents call in search of help for children who have just failed one section or other of the FCAT. They call because they heard the agency has a unique and highly successful approach to the FCAT… as having tried the same approach again and again, they are ready to try something different, something that actually works.

Perpetrators of Florida's FCAT at first told students that this wasn’t a test for which they could study; that it shouldn't keep them or their parents up nights worrying. Today, they are still trying to convince the Florida public that the dreaded test isn't a measure of students at all. They explain how it provides the U.S. Department of Education with a way to measure the state's entitlement to funding, and that now, thanks to Governor Scott, the test also provides a way to determine whether individual teachers deserve raises. That’s all fine and good for those few students who can easily pass the test. For the rest, and that would be the majority of students, the FCAT has become a disrupter of sleep and for a good number of those, the source of a repeating nightmare.

During 2011, more than 60 percent of tenth graders tested, failed to achieve passing grades in the FCAT reading exam. Those students will get ample opportunities to retake the test. However, before telling their children to hit the books once again, parents should know that last spring in Broward and Miami Dade counties alone, repeated failure kept 6000 children from receiving diplomas.

(Why the FCAT isn't just one more test: http://butterflyeffects.com/company/fcat-what-parents-and-students-should-know)

Butterfly Effects, true to its name, specializes in the initiation of spectacular results. They have grown a national reputation helping those that many consider expendable realize lives rich in achievement. For them, the glass is always filled to the brim with opportunity. They too agree that the FCAT is a debacle, but Butterfly educators and tutors see the crisis over the test as a grand opportunity to change the way parents and teachers approach the education of those countless children either left behind or deemed ill-equipped to race to the top.

"The desperation that frightened students and frenzied parents are now feeling is not unreasonable considering what's at stake," says Butterfly Effects CEO, Charlotte Fudge. "No matter how high your grades or exemplary your attendance, fail to master the FCAT and the best you will receive is a certificate of completion rather than a diploma. The consequences can be just as traumatic for the third grader. Answer a few less questions than your peers and you will find your future plotted on that segment of a bell curve that disqualifies you for promotion to fourth grade."

(FCAT/ FCAT 2.O Tutoring Services at Butterfly Effects: http://butterflyeffects.com/services/florida-fcat-and-fcat-2-o)

"Failing the FCAT is as much a behavior problem as it is an academic one," says Mrs. Fudge. When she references behavior problems, she is not speaking about "bad" or "good" behavior as might a juvenile officer. Instead she speaks of it as a psychological term rooted in the notion that all behaviors develop as a way to meet basic needs.

"Certainly poor educational fundamentals contribute to the problem, but educators have been directly addressing that deficit for decades without much impact. Approaching the FCAT the same way after you fail it once, then twice or three times, just doesn’t make sense. The larger part of the problem is that many children lack the practiced skills needed to prepare for and take the test, and when we drill down deeper, we can see that parents and teachers have no idea how to effectively motivate students to make this happen.”

Educators with Butterfly Effects look at studying and testing as behaviors that can be improved and replaced with better behaviors by employing the right tools and the right motivation. This is the fundamental formula that has made Butterfly Effects into a highly successful provider of support for children facing some of life’s most complex challenges, including learning disabilities, autism, and ADHD. Through its dedication to the science of ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) it has dramatically changed the outcomes for countless children. “We don’t just raise the bar on expectations,” says Mrs. Fudge, “but get rid of it altogether. Anything is possible with the right teacher and the right motivation.”

(Read about how Butterfly Effects adds ABA to the teaching of ABC's in home and in school: http://butterflyeffects.com/services/applied-behavior-analysis-programs-aba)

A far cry from the Pavlov / Skinner approach to behavior modification that has led to movie star dogs and pigeon bombardiers, ABA is a much more sophisticated science. ABA takes into consideration the complex neural tapestry of human wants and needs. It looks at all behaviors as functional in nature, meaning that each is designed to serve a need, whether it is successful or not. The elopement of a woman with Alzheimer's isn't about her being difficult but may be predicated on a desperate need for independence. That boy with autism who won’t stop making noise isn’t trying to annoy people. Instead, his repetitive vocalizations are a way to drown out the environmental stimulation that he can’t process. . . . And a child who freezes before a test? He or she is replaying one of the oldest stimuli responses, caught between fight or fight in the face of fear. Not studying, not trying is just another aversion strategy to cope with a noxious situation.

Too often, parents hire academic tutors who merely try to communicate information the same failed way as the teacher in school. Typically, these tutors were accomplished students themselves, yet for all their accomplishment, they are unable to transfer knowledge to their students. Some children do make enough gains to get a parent’s hopes up, but those gains are usually modest and short lived.

"Academic tutoring provides a terrific one-on-one opportunity to make real changes in life habits,” says Mrs. Fudge. “A skilled empathic tutor will come into your home and develop honest communication with the child and learn to understand what it is that best motivates him or her.”

Through more than three decades of research, ABA has demonstrated that the most successful way to change behavior is through intensive consistent one-on-one interventions that rely on constant encouragement and positive reinforcement. Initially, the reward may be as obvious as a cookie or access to a desired activity, but a skilled ABA tutor will eventually have the student internalize a more subtle reward system in a way that will allow him or her to generalize the behavior and eagerly apply it across diverse rather than task-specific situations.

The skills that students learn through Butterfly Effects FCAT tutoring are ones that can be applied over and over again. “The more time we have to spend with a student, the more lasting the solution,” says Mrs. Fudge. “But we also understand that many students are up against the clock and for those students we offer quicker, even four-week solutions that can make all the difference in how they approach the test.”

Butterfly Effects is offering FCAT tutoring along both Florida coasts, but is continually adding to its roster of ABA-trained tutors all across the state. Many of its tutors are bilingual. The agency also provides ABA-based tutoring nationally for students of all levels and abilities in nearly every subject, as well as prep for most standardized achievement and admission tests.

Parents can start butterfly effects for their own children and have tutors come to their homes, by calling 880-880-9270.

Read about how parents can access Butterfly Effects Academic Tutoring and Test Prep: http://butterflyeffects.com/company/don-t-let-the-fcat-bully-your-child)

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Alex Levin

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