Pre-K involving parent engagement boosts outcomes

Pre-K involving parent engagement boosts outcomes

(Ill.) Participation in a high-quality pre-K to third grade education program that also emphasizes parent involvement and services can have positive effects on low-income children up to 30 years later, research shows.

Researchers tracked the progress of more than 1,500 low-income youth in Chicago who enrolled in preschool programs in the city’s Child Parent Centers in 1983 and 1984. The CPC programs include educational enrichment activities as well as family support services that include participation in school activities, support groups and workshops, and home visits, among other supports.

Students who enrolled were more likely to graduate high school and earn postsecondary degrees–factors that contribute to positive health, social and economic outcomes–a finding researchers credit in part to the family engagement portion of the program.

“Children from low-income families are less likely to attend college than their higher-income peers,” Arthur Reynolds, a professor of child development at the University of Minnesota and lead author of the report, said in a statement. “A strong system of educational and family supports in a child’s first decade is an innovative way to improve educational outcomes leading to greater economic well-being. The CPC program provides this.”

Researchers started with 1,539 low-income minority children born in 1979 or 1980 who grew up in high-poverty neighborhoods in Chicago–including 550 selected randomly from standard early intervention programs–and followed nearly 1,000 of those who entered preschool in 1983 or 1984 and completed kindergarten for up to 30 years.

They found that in addition to being more likely to graduate high school within four years, students who had participated in the CPC programs were 5 percentage points more likely to earn an associate’s of bachelor’s degree, and about 3 percentage points more likely to earn a master’s degree. Those who participated from pre-K to second or third grade had even better results. Those children were 6 percentage points more likely to go on to earn an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, more than 3 percentage points more likely than their peers to earn a master’s degree, and 7 percentage points more likely to earn a postsecondary credential.

Authors of the report note that the comprehensive nature of the program is likely what provides such long lasting benefits. The CPC program is a school-based preventive intervention designed to promote children's school readiness and achievement, as well as family involvement in learning.

In addition to providing small classes and intensive learning experiences for children, researchers said the children’s parents received job skills training, parenting skills training, educational classes and social services, and also volunteered in their children’s classrooms, chaperoned field trips and attended parenting support groups.

That, combined with nutritional and health supports including subsidized meals, health screening, and speech therapy among other services, helped provide a stable and predictable learning environment for students during those formidable years when they are developing base social-emotional and academic skills.

Each center, which is located in a school or on school grounds, serves between 100 and 150 children in high-poverty neighborhoods beginning in preschool who then matriculate to school-age services in the same location through third grade. All teachers involved have bachelor’s degrees and are state certified.

City officials launched an initiative in 2013 to expand school- and community-based learning opportunities like the CPC program while improving the quality of early childhood programs.

“Every child deserves a strong foundation for a successful future, and this report provides more concrete, compelling evidence that investments in early childhood education pay dividends for decades,” Rahm Emanuel, mayor of Chicago, said in a statement. “Chicago is expanding access to early childhood education so every child, regardless of their zip code or parents’ income, can have the building blocks for a lifetime of success.”