FASTalk boosts student engagement and achievement by engaging diverse families

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FASTalk (Families and Schools Talk) is an evidence-based tool for schools to activate the power of families to improve student achievement. FASTalk helps teachers send curriculum-aligned learning activities to families by text message in their home language. FASTalk connects the key adults in a student’s life--parents and teachers--by promoting meaningful, regular two-way communication about classroom learning in a way that is easy and accessible, and powerfully impactful on student achievement.

When schools use FASTalk students succeed. In 2018-19, FASTalk helped four times as many Kindergarteners who recognized less than 25 percent of their letters and sounds in the fall meet midyear literacy benchmarks, compared to students not using FASTalk. FASTalk increases parents’ confidence in their ability to support their child’s learning and their knowledge of ways to support learning at home. Parents also found that FASTalk enhanced teacher communication and their connection to the classroom.

Teachers also report FASTalk is benefitting students, reducing key barriers to parent-teacher communication, and saving time. What is remarkable is that FASTalk builds the capacity of teachers to engage families and increase student achievement while taking less than one hour of teacher time over the course of a school year.

 

Formats/platforms are used:

Teachers need a web browser and email access. Families only need a text message-enabled phone.

 

Primary website’s URL:

http://www.familyengagementlab.org

 

Problem solved:

FASTalk addresses growing inequality in educational outcomes for low-income and struggling elementary school students by engaging families in learning. This evidence-based tool, FASTalk (Families and Schools Talk), is needed to support underserved student groups. Students from low-income backgrounds typically enter school behind their peers academically and they never catch up (Child Trends, 2016). Large and persistent gaps emerge in both reading and math between students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch and those who do not (National Center for Education Statistics, 2017). Additionally, English Learners (ELs) are far less likely to achieve proficiency compared to non-ELs in Mathematics (14 percent versus 43 percent) and Reading (9 percent versus 40 percent; U.S. Department of Education, 2017). Low academic achievement (particularly in elementary literacy) has severe social and economic consequences for individual students, families, and communities (AECF, 2016).

Family engagement in learning is a powerful lever to reduce inequality and improve outcomes for all students. Parents’ involvement in their children’s at-home learning has been shown to have more than twice the effect on student test scores than parents’ education levels or a family’s socioeconomic status (Melhuish, 2008). While all parents want to help their children succeed, many do not know how. For example, from a Fall 2018 survey of Louisiana teachers, 14 percent responded that parents know many strategies to support their child’s learning. While parents trust teachers most for advice on how to support their child’s learning at home, 84 percent of teachers in high-poverty schools need support to engage their families in learning (Scholastic, 2016). Language barriers and limited face-to-face interactions pose significant challenges limiting teacher and parent collaboration.

 

Age Ranges:

Preschool through fifth grade

 

Needs addressed:

Core, English Learner, Special Education, Teacher professional development in family engagement

 

Standards:

FASTalk supports preschool and elementary literacy and aligns with more than eight different early childhood and elementary ELA and SEL curricula.

 

Lesson Time Needed:

FASTalk does not require additional lesson time. Teachers are provided with an initial 30-minute workshop.

 

Pricing models:

Pricing is on a sliding scale based on the number of schools, between $10-$15/student.

 

Additional services included:

FASTalk includes:

  • Weekly parent-child learning activities coordinated with your curriculum
  • Activities that support academic, social, and emotional skills
  • Pre-scheduled messages automatically sent to families over SMS, making it easy for teachers and accessible for parents
  • Support for 100+ languages
  • Parent-teacher two-way messaging with automated language translation – without using teacher’s personal phone

 

What makes FASTalk unique?

FASTalk offers a unique opportunity for teachers to increase student engagement in the classroom without taking more than an hour of lesson planning time during the entire year. How?

FASTalk is the only tool that sends home activities for parents to do with their children at home that reinforce the classroom curriculum in grades preK-5. Activities are available in more than 100 languages.

FASTalk messages are pre-loaded and pre-scheduled to align with teacher pacing guides. This ensures that parents receive timely information to discuss key topics at home, so that students come to class prepared to learn.

FASTalk promotes parent-teacher communication about student learning through weekly polls that track activity completion. 

 

Characteristics:

Messages are completely automated and pre-scheduled to align with teachers’ pacing guides. Teachers do not have to write, select or send messages each week. Teachers have the option to edit or reschedule message. Also, class rosters may be pre-loaded or synced with your school or district’s Student Information System.

Designed for maximum accessibility for low-income and non-English-speaking families. FASTalk’s learning activities for parents are sent by text message, and do not require parents to download an app on a smartphone.

Messages are infused with warmth and gratitude, building positive parent-teacher and parent-child relationships to support student success.

 

Here’s what users are saying:

 

 

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