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Parent angry over unique FCAT prep program

Parent angry over unique FCAT prep program

By Matt Grant. CREATED Feb 29, 2012

CAPE CORAL - A unique new approach that's supposed to prepare high school students for the FCAT is under fire.

Karen Taylor turned to Fox 4 upset over a program called "Fast ForWord," which includes a series of repetitive matching games. But Taylor says the only thing her son's getting out of the program is a headache.

"I was able to stay in there for 20 minutes," said Taylor after playing the game, "and I was screaming to get me out of there."

The games, which appear child-like, are meant to boost reading reading comprehension. As of December, Mariner High School has been using it to prepare students who failed last year's FCAT for this year's tougher test, Taylor said.

In one game, called Space Racer, you hear a sound like "weep" or "wop." You're then supposed to click on the corresponding button so an alien on a pogo stick can keep moving.

Click and repeat.

"I don't know how this is supposed to make him better," said Taylor, "to help him pass the FCAT."

Taylor's son Patrick attends Mariner. Last year he says he failed the FCAT by eight points. To help him prepare for this year's exam he says the school's made him play Fast ForWord games anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour every day since December.

"It's the same repetitive-stuff over and over again," said Patrick.

"Do you feel you're getting anything out of it?," asked Fox 4 reporter Matt Grant.

"No," said Patrick. "I'm going from class to class and have headaches just because of this one program."

Patrick says he is told to play the game either during his reading or history class and says other students who have to take it are also frustrated.

"They honestly say it's stupid, it's boring," said Patrick. "We should have never even started it. And it wastes our entire class period."

The game is the brain child of a California company called Scientific Learning.

A spokesperson says Space Racer is just one of several games, which get progressively harder, and are meant to stimulate reading, listening and language skills.

"Does it work for every last kid? No," said William Jenkins with Scientific Learning. "If they use the product as intended they show very nice statistically significant gains."

"I'm told that the principal and the reading coach" at Mariner, he said, "are quite pleased with the results so far."

But at least two people aren't pleased.

"It's not preparing me for anything," said Patrick. "Unless my FCAT only says weep-wop."

Fox 4 reached out to the Lee County School District around 3:30 p.m. A spokesperson told us they didn't have enough time to comment on this story.

Matt Grant
mgrant@fox4now.com