Fast Track is a comprehensive intervention project designed to look at how children develop across their lives by providing academic tutoring and lessons in developing social skills and regulating their behaviors. Selection began when the participants entered kindergarten and children were placed either in the intervention group or the control group. The intervention was guided by a developmental theory stating the interaction of multiple influences on the development of behavior. The Fast Track project is based on the hypothesis that improving child competencies, parenting effectiveness, school context and school-home communications will, over time, contribute to preventing certain behaviors across the period from early childhood through adolescence. The developmental model guiding this project stated that an effective prevention program would address classroom, school risk, and family risk factors, including communication between parent and schools. The most intense phase of the intervention took place in the first grade year for each of three successive cohorts.
The six components of the elementary school phase of the intervention (grades 1-5) include: Teacher-led classroom curriculum called PATHS. This universal intervention was directed toward the development of emotional concepts, social understanding, and self-control (including weekly teacher consultation about classroom management); The following five programs were administered to the intervention subjects: Parent training groups designed to promote the development of positive family-school relationships and to teach parents behavior management skills, particularly in the use of praise, time-out, and self-restraint; Home visits for the purpose of fostering parents' problem-solving skills, self-efficacy, and life management; Child social skill training groups; Child tutoring in reading; and Child friendship enhancement in the classroom. The adolescent phase of the intervention project (grades 6-10) included standard and individualized activities for youth and families receiving the intervention. Curriculum-based parent and youth group meetings were included in the intervention to support children in their transition into middle school (grades 5-7). The focus of this phase of the intervention was primarily on individualized prevention planning, according to criterion-based assessment. Individualized services designed to strengthen protective factors and reduce risk factors in areas of particular need for each youth include home visiting and family problem-solving and liaisons with school and community agencies.
Schools within each of four sites were selected as high risk based on crime and poverty statistics of the neighborhoods that they served. Within each site, the schools were divided into multiple sets matched for demographics and the sets were randomly assigned to intervention and control conditions. Using a multiple-gating screening procedure that combined teacher and parent ratings of disruptive behavior (Lochman & CPPRG, 1995). All 9,594 kindergarteners across three cohorts (1991-93) in these 54 schools were screened initially for classroom conduct problems by teachers, using the Teacher Observation of Child Adjustment-Revised Authority Acceptance Score (Werthamer-Larsson, Kellam, & Wheeler, 1991). Those children scoring in the top 40% within cohort and site were then solicited for the next stage of screening for home behavior problems by the parents, using items from the Child Behavior Checklist and similar scales, and 91% agreed (n=3,274). The teacher and parent screening scores were then standardized and combined into a sum score, based on screening a representative sample of approximately 100 children within each site (which also served as a normative comparison) and then summed to yield a total severity-of-risk screen score. Children were selected for inclusion into the study based on this screen score, moving from the highest score downward until desired sample sizes were reached within sites, cohorts, and conditions. The outcome was that 891 children (n's = 445 for intervention and 446 for control) participated. Note that these levels of problems are defined relative to other children in these high-risk schools. On the kindergarten Teacher's Report Form of the Child Behavior Checklist (TRF; Achenbach, 1991b), which provides national norms, the average Externalizing T-score (available for 88% of the high risk sample) was 66.4, and 76% of these children scored in the clinical range (T-scores of 60 or higher).