Program

May 29, 2015

OVERVIEW

The Chicago School Readiness Program (CSRP) is intended to improve low-income preschool children’s school readiness, by increasing their emotional and behavioral adjustment.  One experimental study found that the program had statistically significant positive impacts on children’s externalizing and internalizing behaviors.  Another evaluation, based on the same data, found statistically significant positive impacts on children’s self-regulation (executive functioning and attention/impulsivity) and pre-academic (vocabulary, letter naming, and early math) skills.

DESCRIPTION OF PROGRAM

Target population: Low-income preschool children

The Chicago School Readiness Program consists primarily of supports for Head Start classroom teachers and classroom assistants.  A mental health consultant (MHC) is contracted to work at each site.  During the first 10 weeks of the intervention, the MHC coaches teachers and classroom assistants in implementing behavior management strategies, as well as focusing on stress reduction techniques.  MHCs follow a set of specific coaching steps that include: 1) establishing shared goals, 2) observing teacher-child interactions, 3) sharing and discussing feedback, 4) collaborative problem-solving, and 5) supporting the use of specific techniques.  Teachers are also offered a series of workshops, totaling 30 hours over the course of five Saturdays, adapted from the Incredible Years Teacher Training Program, an evidence-based teacher training program (see Webster-Stratton, et al., 2004, for more detail).  Workshops apply behavioral principles to teachers’ approaches to reducing children’s challenging behaviors.  MHCs also provide targeted, direct intervention services to identified children in individual and group therapy sessions.

EVALUATION(S) OF PROGRAM

Raver, C.C., Jones, S.M., Li-Grining, C., Zhai, F., Metzger, M., & Solomon, B. (2009). Targeting children’s behaviors in preschool classrooms: A cluster-randomized controlled trial. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 77(2), 302-316.

Evaluated population: A total of 543 children between the ages of three and four, attending one of 18 Head Start sites across seven low-income neighborhoods in Chicago (approximately 83 percent of eligible children at each site participated). Slightly less than half of the children were male (47 percent), 65 percent were African American, 28 percent were Hispanic/Latino, and 22 percent spoke Spanish at home.  Slightly more than two-thirds (69 percent) lived in households headed by a single parent, 43 percent of households had an income of less than one-half the federal poverty level, and approximately one-quarter of parents (26 percent) had not completed high school.

Approach: The goal of the evaluation was to understand whether the Chicago School Readiness Project had impacts on children’s internalizing and externalizing behaviors.  Nine pairs of Head Start sites were matched, based on a range of family demographic characteristics and site characteristics indicating program capacity.  One school from each pair was then randomized to receive the program.  Parents completed a baseline interview that covered demographic characteristics of the family and the child.  Teachers completed assessments of children’s behavior in both the fall and the spring (Behavior Problem Index; Caregiver-Teacher Report Form).  The Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) and the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale (ECERS-R) were completed by trained observers, who were blind to randomization, to assess the quality of the children’s classrooms.  Teachers also completed the K6, a measure that assesses psychological distress and reported on “job overload” items from the Child Care and Early Education Job Inventory.  Analyses assessed the impacts of both individual and classroom characteristics on the outcomes of interest.

Results:  Of the 543 children in the study, a total of 449 had data from both the fall and the spring and were included in the final analyses.  The results indicated that students receiving the program had reduced externalizing and internalizing problems, compared with children in the control group.  The program had a stronger overall impact on girls and Hispanic/Latino children, who tended to show a larger reduction in externalizing behaviors than their counterparts in the control group.

Raver, C.C., Jones, S.M., Li-Grining, C., Zhai, F., Bub, K., Pressler, E. (2011).  CSRP’s impact on low-income preschoolers’ preacademic skills: self-regulation as a mediating mechanism.  Child Development, 82(1), 362-378.

Evaluated population: Same as for previous study.

Approach:  The central question investigated was whether a multi-component intervention implemented in Head Start programs could substantially improve low-income children’s chances for later educational success, by supporting their self-regulatory and pre-academic skills.  Data were collected, before and after program implementation, on the children’s behaviors, backgrounds, classrooms, and on site characteristics from parents, teachers, classroom observers, the children themselves, and site directors.  Children’s self-regulatory skills and pre-academic skills were assessed individually for each child enrolled in the study.  Data on the children’s performance on eight self-regulation tasks were collected using the Preschool Self-Regulation Assessment, along with data concerning their vocabulary, letter naming, and math skills. Assessments were conducted with children in quiet areas during their school day, and 20 percent of the assessments were videotaped.  The quality of the children’s classrooms was assessed, using the Classroom Assessment Scoring System. Measures included children’s strengths and difficulties in behavioral self-regulation, along global dimensions of attention/impulse control, as well as component dimensions of executive functioning and effortful control.  Additional assessments were made of children’s emotions, attention, and impulsivity.  Clustering by program site was taken into consideration during the analyses.

Results: The study found statistically significant positive impacts on vocabulary, letter naming, early math skills, executive functioning, and attention/impulsivity for children receiving the program, compared with children in the control group.

SOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION

References

Raver, C.C., Jones, S.M., Li-Grining, C., Zhai, F., Bub, K., Pressler, E. (2011).  CSRP’s impact on low-income preschoolers’ preacademic skills: self-regulation as a mediating mechanism.  Child Development, 82(1), 362-378.

Raver, C.C., Jones, S.M., Li-Grining, C., Zhai, F., Metzger, M., & Solomon, B. (2009). Targeting children’s behaviors in preschool classrooms: A cluster-randomized controlled trial. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 77(2), 302-316.

Webster-Stratton, C., Reid, M.J., & Hammond, M. (2004). Treating children with early-onset conduct problems: Intervention outcomes for parent, child, and teacher training. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 33(1), 105-124.

Website: http://steinhardt.nyu.edu/ihdsc/csrp/

KEYWORDS: Children, Preschool, Males and Females, High-Risk, Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, Urban, School-based, Conduct/Disruptive Disorders, Early Childhood Education, Social Skills/Life Skills.

Program information last updated 5/29/2015.