Investing in Innovation (i3): $15-million grant project uses FAST as an innovative, targeted strategy for removing key barriers to school turnaround.

Funded through the U.S. Department of Education’s 2012 Investing in Innovation grant competition, also known as i3, the Investing in Family Engagement Project is part of a national initiative to provide funding to school districts and non-profit organizations to develop new approaches to longstanding challenges in education. Of more than 700 applicants from across the country that submitted grant applications, the FAST-focused Investing in Family Engagement Project was one of just 20 selected.

This $15-million, 5-year Investing in Innovation (i3) grant was awarded to The University of Wisconsin-Madison, Wisconsin Center for Education Research to support efforts to turn around low-performing schools and remove critical barriers to students’ success. This project is being implemented in the School District of Philadelphia where – according to 2010 census data – 31% of families with children under age 18 live below of the federal poverty level.

The FAST® Program will be implemented in 60 elementary schools  with the goal of creating positive changes in social ecological conditions. These changes include improvements in family functioning, parent-child bonds, social support, parent involvement in schools, and child behavior, as well as reductions in family conflict and parental stress.

In addition, the goal of FAST is to improve classroom climate and create conditions in which teachers can foster enhanced student learning. Over time, the project is expected to produce meaningful improvements in student achievement in the early grades and increased parent involvement in schools, which will translate into sustained school turnaround.

FAST accrues these outcomes by:

  1. Engaging parents in a multi-family program that increases parents’ comfort level with the school;
  2. Countering parent and child stress by building trusting relationships among parents, school staff, and community partners; and
  3. Reducing family conflict and child neglect by empowering parents to interact positively and mindfully with their children.

Project Implementation

There are five organizations working on the project – The Wisconsin Center for Education Research at The University of Wisconsin-Madison, Families and Schools Together, Inc., Turning Points for Children (a local provider of services for children and families based in Philadelphia) and the School District of Philadelphia. The American Institutes for Research is serving as the independent evaluator for the research project.

2016-2017 School Year

During the 2016-2017 school year, this project takes a step further to bring FAST to 30 additional schools, working to further engage Kindergarten through 2nd grade children and their families throughout Philadelphia.