Program

Mar 11, 2011

OVERVIEW

The FAST (Families and Schools Together) program was designed to improve the behavioral and academic outcomes of at-risk early elementary school aged children. This specific study targeted American Indian children through a culturally adapted version of the FAST program. FAST is a family-centered program that uses weekly activity sessions to foster family unity, parent-child bonds, and support for parents. Sessions encourage healthy communication, familial bonds, self-esteem, and social support. Previous studies of the FAST program showed improvement in at-risk children’s attention span, conduct and anxiety. The current study found that the program reduced aggressive and withdrawn behaviors, with children maintaining an improvement in their academic competence and remaining less withdrawn at the one-year follow-up assessment.

DESCRIPTION OF PROGRAM

Target population: At-risk early elementary-aged school children (grades K-2)

The FAST (Families and Schools Together) program was designed to improve academic and behavioral outcomes for at-risk children by targeting the child’s whole family for intervention. FAST is an 8-week program that uses family therapy principles to encourage positive familial bonds and greater parent involvement. This version of FAST was specially adapted for an American Indian population, and included aspects of both the broader FAST program and culturally specific activities. The cultural adaptations were reviewed by members of the American Indian Language and Culture Education Board of Wisconsin. The program consists of eight, consecutive, weekly, 2.5 hour long sessions that include dinner and structured family activity and play led by a trained FAST staff. Up to ten families can participate in the sessions that encourage families to communicate their thoughts and feelings through play (such as charades or drawings) and through “turn-taking” discussions where each member of the family gets a chance to speak while the rest of the family listens. Each session also provides an hour for children to play together while parents meet in dyads and small groups to share their concerns and advice. Finally, each meeting provides 15 minutes of structured “special play time” for the target child and parent during which the two play together, separate from other members of the family. The child initiates play, and parents are instructed to repeat this one-on-one activity daily throughout the week as “homework.” At the eighth session, families graduate from “Phase 1” and “Phase 2” begins. “Phase 2” is very similar to “Phase 1,” though sessions occur monthly rather than weekly.

According to the FAST website (familiesandschools.org) in 2011, training for Kids and Middle School FAST costs $4,295 per site.

EVALUATION(S) OF PROGRAM

Kratochwill, T.R., McDonald, L., Levin, J.R., Young Bear-Tibbets, H., and Demaray, M.K. (2004). Families and Schools Together: an experimental analysis of a parent-mediated multi family group program for American Indian Children. Journal of School Psychology, 42, 359-383.

Evaluated population: 100 students were matched according to tribal heritage, school, grade level, gender and teacher ratings of behavior. One child in each of these matched pairs was then randomly chosen to participate in the FAST program, creating a control group and treatment group that were similar in the aforementioned characteristics. The families (n=100) were recruited from three Wisconsin public elementary schools that each served a large number of American Indian children. Parent participants were of American Indian descent and had children who attended one of these three schools. Kindergarten, first- and second-grade teachers at each of these three schools were also recruited to provide the initial externalizing (acting out) behavior and internalizing (sad) behavior scores for the child participants.

Approach: The authors of this study collected data using standardized test scores and teacher ratings to measure academic and behavioral outcomes. Specifically, teacher and parent ratings from the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) and the Social Skills Rating System (SSRS) were used to measure behavioral outcomes. A combination of different scales were used to measure academic outcomes, including the Ecobehavioral Assessment System (EBASS), math and reading curriculum-based measurements, and the academic competence subscale of the SSRS. The researchers collected data before the FAST program began and twice after the program was completed; once immediately following FAST students’ graduation and again 9-12 months later.

Results: In the evaluation immediately following FAST graduation, students whose offered the FAST program scored five points lower on teacher observed aggressive behaviors and four points lower on parent observed withdrawn behaviors than their matched comparisons. By the one-year follow up, FAST students were rated as less withdrawn by their teachers (6.6 points less than the control group) and more academically competent (5.6 points more than the control group). Though the FAST students did improve, some of the gap could be attributed to the worsening of scores for the control group. No differences were observed between the FAST students and the control group on measures of reading and math, though teachers did rate FAST students as being more academically competent than their control group counterparts. Moreover, general parent school participation improved across all schools. The authors of the study concluded that parents and children alike enjoyed the program given the 80% graduation rate and positive sentiments expressed at follow up.

This study used a very small sample. However, given the study’s goal to create a cultural adaptation of a national intervention for a small, at-risk, ethnic population a larger population may have been difficult to obtain.

SOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION

Official website:
www.familiesandschools.org

Link to program curriculum: http://www.wcer.wisc.edu/fast/media/manuals.htm

References:

Kratochwill, T.R., McDonald, L., Levin, J.R., Young Bear-Tibbets, H., and Demaray, M.K. (2004). Families and Schools Together: an experimental analysis of a parent-mediated multi family group program for American Indian Children. Journal of School Psychology, 42, 359-383.

KEYWORDS: Behavioral Problems, Education, High-Risk, Elementary School, American Indian/Alaska Native, Aggression, Family Therapy, Parent or Family Component, Academic Achievement/Grades, Counseling/Therapy, Reading/Literacy, Mathematics, Social/Emotional Health, Manual is Available, Cost Information is Available.

Program information last updated 3/11/11

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