Arthur Reynolds describes the significance, development, and effects of preschool to 3rd grade approaches. This school reform strategy integrates services and supports transitions, thereby increasing achievement, sustaining gains, and realistically reducing achievement gaps. Evidence from the Child-Parent Center (CPC) program is reviewed to illustrate key principles, strategies, and elements. Data from the Chicago Longitudinal Study and the more recent Midwest CPC expansion show that the program is effective in enhancing the transition to school and promoting longer-term well-being.
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The second unfortunate reality is that despite the overall evidence of positive benefits for good-quality programs, impacts of early childhood programs across all cultural and social contexts vary substantially in magnitude, consistency, and duration. Too much variation in program quality is a major reason, as is the fact that later education is not aligned to early learning (Camilli et al., 2010; Reynolds & Temple, 2008; Zigler, Gilliam, & Jones, 2006). Even if large and sustained effects and greater alignment do occur, these programs are rarely scaled to entire populations. Given the size of achievement disparities, the relatively modest levels of achievement proficiency of students worldwide, and the limited reach of current programs, longer and more comprehensive strategies are needed. They also must have the capacity to scale since only a small fraction of programs are ever scaled to the population level (O’Connell, Boat, & Warner, 2009; Spoth et al., 2013). Multilevel programs in the first decade of life can redress these trends. Preschool to 3rd grade (P-3) approaches, including the Chicago-based Child-Parent Center Preschool to 3rd Grade Program (CPC-P3), serve as models for scaling and sustaining an evidence-based program. CPC opened in 1967 with funding from Title I (which had been introduced just two years earlier, as part of the landmark Elementary and Secondary School Act of 1965). Although CPC started out as a comprehensive preschool program, it soon began to offer continuing services in kindergarten and the early grades as well, in hopes of avoiding the low achievement and family disengagement that seemed to follow the transition to local elementary schools (Reynolds, 2000). Supported by long-term evidence in the Chicago Longitudinal Study (CLS) and an Investing in Innovation Grant from the U. S. Department of Education, CPC-P3 now provides comprehensive education and family support services in six Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin districts (Human Capital Research Collaborative, 2012; Reynolds, Hayakawa, et al., 2016).
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