Program

May 13, 2015

OVERVIEW

FAST (Families and Schools Together)* program was designed to improve the behavioral and academic outcomes of early elementary school students, as well as the bonds between parents and schools. FAST uses family therapy principles to encourage positive familial bonds and greater parent involvement. One version is adapted to an American Indian population. Studies of the FAST program found improvement in at-risk children’s attention span, conduct and anxiety, as well as aggressive and withdrawn behaviors. It also has been found to improve externalizing behavior, somatic complaints, and family adaptability. More recent studies found that the program strengthens bonds between parents in the school, and reduces school mobility among black students.

DESCRIPTION OF PROGRAM

Target population: Early elementary school students and their parents (K-3)

FAST (Families and Schools Together) program is designed to empower parents, promote child resilience, and increase ties between parents and between parents and school personnel.

There are two parts to the program, the second of which is optional. In the first part, parents, children, and teachers meet for one evening every week for two months at their school. Each session, which lasts about 2.5 hours, includes a variety of activities to encourage bonding and good parenting. Group activities for everyone together include a sing-along, family meal, drawing, acting, and a “lottery” that every family wins once. These activities last between 15 and 30 minutes each. There is also an hour where children have supervised play to allow the parents to meet. Parents meet both one-on-one for socializing, and together for discussions on parenting issues during this hour. Finally, there is one-on-one play between parents and their children. This play-time is discretely coached to encourage parents to follow the child’s lead: an adaption of play therapy. At the end of the program, there is a “graduation” ceremony for each participating family.

In the second, optional part of the program, known as FASTWORKS, parents meet monthly for another two years. These meetings are entirely parent directed, and are a parent “support group.”

There is also a version of the program that has been specially adapted for use with American Indian populations.

In 2011, training for Kids and Middle School FAST cost $4,295 per site, according to the FAST website (familiesandschools.org).

EVALUATION(S) OF PROGRAM

McDonald, L., Moberg, D. P., Brown, R., Rodriguez-Espiricueta, I., Flores, N. I., Burke, M. P., & Coover, G. (2006). After-school multifamily groups: A randomized controlled trial involving low-income, urban, Latino children. Children & Schools, 28(1), 25-34.

Evaluated population: A total of 130 Latino students and their families from 10 Milwaukee elementary schools were evaluated. Approximately 54 percent of the FAST students and 28 percent of the comparison students were male. Most of the students (over 70 percent) had married parents, but over 70 percent of families reported an annual income of less than $20,000. Almost half of the parents had not completed high school.

Approach: Classrooms from ten urban elementary schools were randomly assigned to a FAST treatment group or a Family Education (FAME) comparison group. Four in-home interviews were conducted with parents: pre-intervention, post-intervention, one year post-intervention, and two years post-intervention. Families in the FAST condition were allowed to participate in the FAST intervention, including FASTWORKS. FAME families were sent mailed parenting skills booklets weekly for two months, and invited to a lecture on parenting. Both groups received regular newsletters and birthday cards throughout the length of the study to keep them engaged.

Teachers evaluated children’s socioemotional functioning and academic performance at the two year follow-up. This included measures of externalizing and internalizing behavior, and ability in reading, writing, math, and social skills. Data were available for 130 of 180 students. HLM models were estimated to account for clustering.

Results: At the two-year follow-up, teacher ratings of FAST students were significantly better than FAME students on social skills, academic performance, and externalizing behaviors. No impacts were found for internalizing behaviors (depression, anxiety) or academic competence (including motivation and parental encouragement).

Kratochwill, T. R., McDonald, L., Levin, J. R., Scalia, P. A., & Coover, G. (2009). Families and schools together: An experimental study of multi-family support groups for children at risk. Journal of School Psychology, 47, 245-265.

Evaluated population: The sample for this evaluation included 134 students. They were sampled from eight elementary schools in an urban school district serving low-income communities. Students were in kindergarten through second grade, and 57 percent of the students were female.

Approach: Students were randomly assigned to participate in the FAST program treatment group (n = 67) or a control group (n = 67). Students were measured at eight weeks, and again 9 to 12 months later on parent and teacher-reported social, emotional, and behavioral outcomes, as well as family support. Outcomes measured include internalizing and externalizing behavior, withdrawn behavior, social problems, attention problems, delinquent behavior, aggressive behavior, social skills, problem behavior, academic competence, family cohesion, family adaptability, and family support.

Results: At immediate post-test, the only positive impact of FAST was on adaptability (effect size=1.35). Students in the control group had significant reductions in attention problems when compared with students in the FAST group. None of the other outcomes produced significant results.

At the 9 to 12 month follow-up, the FAST group showed significant impacts on externalizing behavior (effect size=0.68), somatic complaints (effect size=0.53), and family adaptability (effect size=0.79). However, FAST students exhibited significantly more thought problems (effect size=0.45) when compared with the control group. None of the other outcomes were significant at this follow-up.

According to this evaluation, FAST cost approximately $1,200 per child in 2000-2002. Four students in the control group were designated as needing special education services compared with one student in the FAST group. The student in the FAST group required half a year of services, while the average control group student required 1.9 years of services. Based on these figures, the total cost for the control group was $290,000, while the cost for the FAST program, including implementation, evaluation, training, and special education services, was $140,000.

Gamoran, A., López Turley, R. N., Turner, A., & Fish, R. (2012). Differences between Hispanic and non-Hispanic families in social capital and child development: First-year findings from an experimental study. Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, 30(1), 97-112.

Evaluated population: The sample consisted of a cohort of first-graders across 24 schools in Phoenix, Arizona and San Antonio, Texas. The total sample was approximately 1,200 children. Seventy-seven percent of the sample were Hispanic, eleven percent were black, and 14 percent were white. Thirty-six percent of parents were born outside the United States, and 43 percent had a native language other than English. Three quarters of the students qualified for free or reduced-price lunch.

Approach: Schools were randomly assigned to run a FAST program for all first-graders (12 schools) or to continue business as usual (12 schools). Treatment schools had a voluntary FAST program for eight weeks, followed by two years of monthly parent-led meetings (FASTWORKS). Parents and teachers were asked about measures of social capital and student behavior both pre- and post-test. Measures included parent-staff relationships, parent-parent relationships, and student social-behavioral skills (parent- and teacher-reported), including emotional symptoms, behavior problems, inattention, peer-relationship problems, and prosocial behavior.

Results: Immediately following the intervention, FAST had an impact on parent-parent relationships (effect size=0.23), but not on parent-teacher relationships. However, in Phoenix, a city with a higher proportion of recent immigrants, both measures were significant, while in San Antonio, neither were.

There were no statistically significant results on child behavior.

Fiel, J.E., Haskins, A. R., & López Turley, R. N. (2013). Reducing school mobility: A randomized trial of a relationship-building intervention. American Educational Research Journal, 50(6), 1188-1218.

Evaluated population: The sample consisted of two cohorts of first-graders across 52 schools in Phoenix, Arizona and San Antonio, Texas. The total sample was 3,091 children. Three quarters of the sample were Hispanic, eight percent were black, and 14 percent were white. Eighty percent qualified for free or reduced-price lunch, and 26 percent were English language learners. Thirty-eight percent of the sample changed schools before the end of third grade.

Approach: Schools were randomly assigned to run a FAST program for all first-graders (26 schools) or to continue business as usual (26 schools). Treatment schools had a voluntary FAST program for eight weeks, followed by two years of monthly parent-led meetings (FASTWORKS). The main outcome measure was student mobility: whether students had changed schools by the beginning of third grade, based on administrative rosters of students. Information on parent social capital and relationship to the school was also collected in years 1, 2, and 3. This included measures of the number of school staff that parents felt comfortable approaching, how much they trusted school staff, the number of parents of their child’s friends that they knew, how much they shared expectations for their child with other parents, whether they talked about school with their child, and whether they participated in school activities.

Results: FAST had an impact on all measures of social capital except for parental trust in staff. Compared with the control group, it increased the number of school staff that parents felt comfortable approaching, the number of parents of their child’s friends that they knew, how much they shared expectations for their child with other parents, whether they talked about school with their child, and whether they participated in school activities.

There were no overall impacts on student mobility. However, the FAST intervention decreased mobility among black students and those who lived further away from the school. Analyses of survey data suggest that this effect was caused by those parents feeling more connected to other parents in the school.

SOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION

Contact information:

Carol Goedken

Chief Executive Officer

Families and Schools Together, Inc.

2801 International Lane, Suite 212

Madison, WI 53704

888-629-2481

info@familiesandschools.org

Official website: www.familiesandschools.org

Link to program manual: 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.

McDonald, L., Moberg, D. P., Brown, R., Rodriguez-Espiricueta, I., Flores, N. I., Burke, M. P., & Coover, G. (2006). After-school multifamily groups: A randomized controlled trial involving low-income, urban, Latino children. Children & Schools, 28(1), 25-34.

Kratochwill, T. R., McDonald, L., Levin, J. R., Scalia, P. A., & Coover, G. (2009). Families and schools together: An experimental study of multi-family support groups for children at risk. Journal of School Psychology, 47, 245-265.

Gamoran, A., López Tuley, R. N., Turner, A., & Fish, R. (2012). Differences between Hispanic and non-Hispanic families in social capital and child development: First-year findings from an experimental study. Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, 30(1), 97-112.

Fiel, J.E., Haskins, A. R., & López Tuley, R. N. (2013). Reducing school mobility: A randomized trial of a relationship-building intervention. American Educational Research Journal, 50(6), 1188-1218.

KEYWORDS: Children (3-11), Elementary, Males and Females (co-ed), Hispanic/Latino, Black, School-based, Parent training/education, Parent/Family component, Cost Information is Available, Manual is Available, Anxiety, Conduct/Disruptive Disorders, Depression/Mood Disorders, Academic Achievement, Academic Motivation, Other Education, Other Civic Engagement, Social Skills.

Program information last updated on 5/13/15

*The program is unrelated to another program with the same name that involves teachers sending notes home to students.

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