Aug 25, 2015


Families and Schools Together* is a collaboration between teachers and parents to improve the consistency of students’ schoolwork. For students whose work is sometimes good and sometimes bad, teachers send notes to parents when the student has done work that is above average. Parents then reward their child in a way that was agreed on in advance. There is no punishment for poor work. An experimental study found that the program made the children’s work more consistent, but there was little or no improvement in the average scores.


Target Population: Elementary school students with inconsistent academic performance

This program aims to improve academic performance by facilitating collaboration between parents and teachers. Teachers send notes home when the student does good work, and parents agree to reward their child when they receive a note.

A week before the beginning of the intervention, parents meet with their child’s teacher for a one-hour appointment. The family meets the teacher, learns about the intervention, and sees the information already collected on the consistency of their child’s performance on homework. The family also plays a board game, called “Solutions,” in which they write a contingency contract, and decide on a reward for a “good news note.” They also decide when the reward will be given, how often, and by whom.

Throughout the year, the teacher scores the child’s work quickly so that a note can be sent home the same day. The teacher sends a note home when the child does better than their baseline average on the homework. The notes say something like, “Good News! John’s reading work was 85% correct today.” When teachers do not assign work, they send a “no-work-today” note, but they do not send any note if the work was below average. Parents agree to reward the child when a good-news-note comes home, but do nothing when they don’t receive a note.


Blechman, E. A., Kotanchik, N. L., & Taylor, C. J. (1981). Families and Schools Together: Early behavioral intervention with high risk children. Behavior Therapy, 12, 308-319.

Evaluated Population: The study followed 40 elementary school students who often deviated from their average academic performance. The children attended two public schools in a city of 40,000. Children in 13 classrooms participated: one second grade, three third grade, six fourth grade, and three fifth grade rooms.

Approach: Each classroom was randomly assigned to start the intervention at a different time: two, four, or five months into the school year. The staggered schedule was adopted due to resource constraints. Within each classroom, the six children whose daily written class work had the greatest variability (“scatter”) were asked to participate in the study. Four were randomly assigned to the experimental group, and two were assigned to the control group, in each class. In each classroom, three children with the least scatter were assigned to be an additional comparison group.

Researchers collected student demographic and academic information at the beginning of the study, including gender, grade in school, family structure, identification by the school as a special education student or student with a disability, academic work (as rated by the teacher), and classroom behavior (as rated by the teacher). Math and reading class work was collected daily from October through May.

Results: Differences between the change in the treatment group and change in the control group were not reported.

Each of the three groups, treatment, control, and comparison, differed from each of the other two on reading scatter, math scatter, reading accuracy, math accuracy, and teacher identification of the child as an underachiever. The comparison group, which had the lowest score on scatter (little variability in homework performance), also had the highest reading and math accuracy, and no underachievers identified by the teacher.

Differences between the treatment group and comparison group were no longer significant on math and reading scatter after intervention, although the comparison group still had significantly higher math and reading accuracy. There was no similar result comparing the control group and the comparison group.



Blechman, E. A., Kotanchik, N. L., & C.J. Taylor. (1981). Families and Schools Together: Early behavioral intervention with high risk children. Behavior Therapy, 12, 308-319.

KEYWORDS: Children, Elementary, Males and Females, High-Risk, Urban, School-based, Parent or Family Component, Reading, Mathematics, Academic Achievement.

Program information last updated on 08/25/15.

*It should not be confused with the FAST program developed by Dr. Lynn McDonald, although the names are the same.

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