Better Together

Family Engagement Lab
 and Stand for Children have proudly partnered since 2019 to support improved student learning outcomes through family engagement. In 2021, Stand’s Home Visit Partnerships’ Director, working closely with Fort Worth ISD’s Leadership Academy Network, identified a critical need to provide continued connection and relationship building between teachers and families after a teacher’s initial home visit. Because home visits only happen once or twice a year, teachers were looking for additional ways to leverage the positive relationships they established during those visits to build stronger partnership and the capacity of families to support learning all year.

It was with those questions in mind that Stacey Vanhoy, Director of Home Visit Partnerships, began to research best practices on ways to support teachers to extend learning from
the classroom to the living room, while not adding additional work to teachers’ plates. In October of 2021, Home Visit Partnerships and Family Engagement Lab met and excitedly spoke about how FASTalk could support Leadership Academy Network teachers’ need for ongoing, learning-related information that could be sent equitably and easily to their students’ families.  

During Spring 2022, Family Engagement Lab and Home Visit Partnerships came together to support ongoing partnerships between teachers and families through home visits and the regular sharing of at-home learning activities through FASTalk  at two schools in the Leadership Academy Network, a partnership between Fort Worth ISD and Texas Wesleyan University.  FASTalk was piloted  for 12 weeks in 6 pre-K classrooms at the Leadership Academy at Maude I. Logan and the Leadership Academy at John T. White Elementary Schools – and was met with resounding success all around. 100% of teachers and families who participated wanted home visits and FASTalk messages to continue. 79% of families responded to the FASTalk text messages and 56% responded 5 or more times. These strong engagement rates generated excitement about expanding the program at the Leadership Academy schools and in other Fort Worth area schools. 

At the conclusion of the pilot, Stacey, along with Dr. Elisabeth O’Bryon, Family Engagement Lab’s Chief Impact Officer and co-founder, conducted a series of focus groups with Logan and White Elementary Schools’ educators and families to learn more about their experience with FASTalk and home visits. 

Fort Worth teachers shared the importance of having already visited families’ homes and
developed trust prior to beginning the FASTalk program. Teachers loved the outgoing, translated FASTalk messages and the automatic message translation feature that enabled regular two-way communication in families’ home languages. Fort Worth families noted that they loved being able to support their child’s learning at home and that FASTalk helped them feel included in their child’s education. Families wanted even more weekly messages, reporting that the FASTalk activities were really engaging for their children. FASTalk helped families feel connected to what was happening at school and fostered a sense of partnership between families and their children’s teachers. One mother noted that she felt like her child was the “MVP” and she and the teacher were both on his team, helping him succeed. 

“FASTalk has been a game changer for our schools. This valuable resource has been one of the tools we have been able to utilize to build our communication efforts with our families. FASTalk has helped equip our parents to best support their students at home!” – Priscila Dilley, Senior Officer, Leadership Academy Network

The pilot results were so positive that Leadership Academy Network’s senior leadership team has expanded the use of FASTalk this academic year to all four campuses for pre-K, Kinder, and 1st grade families. 

In addition to Leadership Academy Network schools, Home Visit Partnerships and Family Engagement Lab, with the support of the Rainwater Charitable Foundation, have teamed up with East Fort Worth Montessori Academy in PK-5th grades. As Mrs. Farhanaz Reza, 3rd grade teacher shared, “At the beginning of this year, we learned about ‘FASTalk’ and ‘Home Visit’ as the communication systems available to us. After visiting several families, I noticed that kids are putting extra effort to accomplish their tasks. They are making behavioral changes as well. They were super excited to see teachers at their home. Parents were happy and grateful. They appreciated our efforts to go beyond and help each other to make a difference. Now, parents are comfortable communicating via FASTalk. The majority of my families reach out to me with their daily needs, any concerns, or questions through FASTalk. I have started feeling stronger and I would say, seeing these positive changes in my students, is a great achievement.”  

This month, through generous support from Rose Community Foundation, Gary Community Ventures and The Deane Family Fund, a fund of the Denver Foundation, Home Visit Partnerships and Family Engagement Lab will build on their partnership to support early literacy learning in both Denver and across Colorado.

If you are interested in learning more about Home Visit Partnerships and Family Engagement Lab, please visit our websites and learn more about how you can support our work.