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The race for City Hall

Jobs and schools promise to be top issues in next year’s city elections. The mayor’s education agenda faces its toughest test in the African-American communities that gave him strong support in 2011.

Child-parent centers post higher attendance: study

The findings from a new study of the district’s pioneering child-parent center program are striking, with daily attendance up and chronic absenteeism among preschoolers down as much as 40 percent in some schools.

Along with the positive findings, however, a question looms: Six of the centers that were located in schools that shut down this fall moved to welcoming schools, but it’s not clear how many of the preschoolers who were part of the study last year at those centers came back this fall.

Researchers, teachers and principals have wrapped up the first year of the federally funded study, which included 1,655 children (out of the 2,300 who received services through the center’s program).

Principal investigator Arthur Reynolds says the improved attendance figures are likely due to a combination of more full-day preschool classrooms coupled with parent engagement strategies that are part of the child-parent center model. The model, considered a prime example of high-quality early learning, once flourished in Chicago but dwindled for lack of resources. Now, with federal funding, the program is making a comeback in CPS and expanding to other school districts, including Evanston; Normal, Ill.; Milwaukee; and Minnesota.

The findings on absenteeism are important because research has found that chronic absence in preschool sets the stage for poor attendance in later years as well as lower academic achievement.

The new study’s results showed that:

--- Full-day classes had average attendance of 90 percent last year, versus 84 percent for half-day preschools. And while 67 percent of students in half-day programs were chronically absent, the figure fell to 41 percent for full-day programs.

--- Schools with a full-time community resource coordinator had lower percentages of chronically absent children: 55 percent versus 64 percent for schools with only a part-time coordinator.

--- Stronger parent engagement also helped to decrease chronic absenteeism. Schools with a full-day preschool, high parent engagement and a full-time outreach worker posted chronic absence rates of 27 percent, compared to 77 percent for schools that lacked these factors.

Before the study began, none of the schools had full-day preschools. But last year, 11 of the child-parent center sites began offering full-day classes, with a total of 23 classrooms. This year, that’s increased even more, to 30 classrooms in 13 sites. (Three sites---Velma Thomas, Peck and Edwards--are so overcrowded that they don’t have space to offer a full-day preschool program.)

What’s next

The study faced a challenge because of school closings and high mobility. Though researchers hoped that 80 percent of the preschool students would stay at their school for kindergarten, the numbers fell somewhat short of that goal: Just 62 percent of preschoolers at schools that were slated to close (or at one school, to undergo a turnaround) entered kindergarten at their designated welcoming schools, and only 72 percent did so at other schools.

“We worked with the new principals to make sure there was a smooth transition,” Reynolds says. “We made a big effort to make sure those kids all stayed, because if they moved and they didn’t move to a [child-parent center] school, they wouldn’t get any of those other services. The leadership teams all made a strong effort to reach out to families.”

Researchers took another step to ensure stability, encouraging principals at receiving schools and at Dewey, the turnaround, to keep teachers who had been trained in the child-parent center model.

Reynolds notes that at Dewey, several staff members stayed on. The parent resource teacher remained, and one of the preschool teachers became the head teacher.

Next, researchers and school staff will home in on providing support to preschool students as they move up through kindergarten, 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade. The emphasis will be on building a community of preschool through 3rd grade teachers who use a similar curriculum and can strike a balance between child-directed, play-focused instruction and instruction directed by the teacher.

Other key aspects of the program include a variety of parent engagement activities, class sizes of no more than 17 in preschool and 25 in kindergarten through 3rd grade, plus the availability of a teacher’s aide who is in the classroom at least half-time.

A leadership team comprised of the head teacher, the parent resource teacher, and a school-community liaison coordinates each child-parent center program.

CPS is providing funding to continue the program for this year’s preschool students, but it’s not clear whether there will be money for the K-3 years.

“We want to work out a sustainability plan,” Reynolds says.

This story has been updated to correct the number Dewey Child-Parent Center staff who were re-hired during the school's turnaround.


retired principal II wrote 1 year 10 weeks ago

CPS counts pre-k attendance against thier schools

why would schools want to keep these programs
pre-k student attendance should not be used against the school
not fair to do to the school, the teachers or to the students

Mary Thompson wrote 1 year 10 weeks ago

Child Parent Centers

This is only a means of trying to sell Child Parent Centers. The Child Parent Center at Dewey did not prove fruitful. Those students progressed to the upper grades. The school has been on probation 6 years in a row. those students did not show gain. And the crime rate has been high for many years. Dewey's school for turned around for low performance and under utilization. Over the years the Child Parent Centers were closing for reasons of not having enough children.

CPS teacher wrote 1 year 9 weeks ago

CPCs and Dewey

Child-Parent Centers do a great job involving families to improve their education. In the case of Dewey, many great families would leave after PreK or Kindergarten to test into or go to better elementary programs. I hope the turnaround will change that, but it seems many negative changes are happening in the CPC as a result of less PreK knowledge. (AUSL trains teachers for K-12) Also, in the case of Dewey, only the Parent Resource teacher was kept, and only one PreK teacher who has NO administrative experience/credentials was promoted to Head Teacher. That's only 2 teachers out of the 7 teachers that all reapplied for their jobs at the CPC turnaround. No other PreK or K teachers were hired back as this article states. AUSL tries to hide the fact that they do not want many people from the previous school. They always blame the numbers on the fact that people simply do not apply. That is false, and Dewey CPC is merely one example.

John Garvey wrote 1 year 8 weeks ago

Research Study

Could you provide readers with a citation for the new study or, even better, a link to it?

Thank you.

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