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Citation:Hernandez, L. (2000). Families and schools together: Building organizational capacity for family-school partnerships. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Family Research Project.

This case study analyzes the implementation of Families and Schools Together (FAST) by the Alliance for Children and Families. In the FAST program, students entering kindergarten stay with the same teacher through the second grade. The program includes annual sessions of summer enrichment with their teacher, and year-round interactions between school and home. The process involves much more than teachers getting to know their students. Teachers become the Òextended familyÓ for students and their parents. The case study was developed as part of a three-year grant to the Harvard Family Research Project (HFRP) from the DeWitt Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund to provide technical assistance to the Fund's family-school-community partnership grantees. The FAST program was one of these grantees. The analysis includes the vision, training and curriculum, organizational learning, resource development, and the replication and sustainability process. Evaluations of FAST programs over twelve years revealed a consistent pattern of positive outcomes in four areas: 1) child behavior, 2) family functioning, 3) parent-school affiliation, and 4) families' experience of the program. Statistical results showed significant improvements in children's classroom and home behaviors, self-esteem, family closeness, parent involvement in school, and reduction in social isolation. Follow-up data suggested that children continue to improve and many parents seek counseling and substance abuse treatment, get jobs, return to school, and attend community events. Long-term evaluation indicated these gains hold and that the program facilitates the development of families' connections with their communities. Researchers state, "As parents become empowered in their relations with their children's schools, many generalize that experience and become more involved in their community as well." Data collected over a two-year period from 1998-99 includes FAST program, training, and marketing materials, evaluation reports, participant observation of training sessions and FAST program sessions, interviews with principals and national and local staff, and focus group sessions with FAST participants, including parents, school staff, and mental health and substance abuse service providers. The study reports numerous challenges and suggestions for improvement of the FAST program. Researchers caution that while FAST seems to connect families and communities with schools, practitioners are encouraged to follow the findings from future FAST sites.

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