FAST (Families & Schools Together): An Innovative, Targeted Strategy for Removing Key Barriers to School Turnaround
Grant: U.S. Department of Education, Investing in Innovation (i3) grant award no. U411B120009
Principal Investigators: Tom Kratochwill – UW-Madison Wisconsin Center for Education Research, American Institutes for Research (AIR)
This project will validate a targeted approach to reform that reduces critical barriers to school success: lack of family engagement, family stress, and child neglect in low-performing schools. Families & Schools Together (FAST®) overcomes these barriers with multi-family groups that build relationships within and among families and between families and schools. We will implement FAST in the School District of Philadelphia, where engaging families is a priority. We will reach approximately 60 inner-city schools over 5 years. Schools will be randomized into a treatment group, which will receive the FAST intervention and a 2-year follow-up in two successive kindergarten cohorts, and a wait-list control group, which will receive FAST in the last year of the project. All kindergarten children will be invited into the 8 weekly structured multi-family groups, with monthly follow-up parent-graduate led groups for two years (FASTWORKS®). An independent evaluation will measure impact, assess fidelity of implementation, and identify features that foster success. The project aims to create conditions that turn around persistently low-performing schools. FAST yields initial benefits for the children by reducing their stresses external to the classroom so that they can learn more from their teachers; this is accomplished by mobilizing enhanced parent social support, improved parent-child relations, and increased parent-school engagement, leading to improvements in home environments, classroom climate, and child behavior at home and school. Long-term outcomes are improved early learning and school turnaround.