Background and History

The Child-Parent Center (CPC) Program is a center-based early intervention that provides comprehensive educational and family-support services to economically disadvantaged children from preschool to early elementary school. The CPC program was established in 1967 through funding from Title I of the landmark Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. It is the second oldest (after Head Start) federally funded preschool program in the U.S. and is the oldest extended early childhood intervention.

The development of the Chicago Child-Parent Centers can be traced to 1966 when the General Superintendent of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) asked Dr. Lorraine M . Sullivan, Superintendent of District 8 and the program founder, to report on ways to improve student attendance and achievement in her district. District 8 was located in the center of the North Lawndale community area and had one of the highest concentrations of poverty in the city. Dr. Sullivan's report emphasized four elements for building academic success:

  1. Parent involvement in the early years of school
  2. Instructional approaches tailored to children's learning styles and designed to develop their speaking and listening skills
  3. Small class sizes to provide for individual attention
  4. Attention to health and nutritional services. These principles were implemented through the establishment of four Child-Parent Education Centers in May 1967.

Approximately 1,000 children enrolled in the Child-Parent Centers in Chicago from 1985-1986 became part of the Chicago Longitudinal Study, along with  550 students in a matched control group. The study investigates the long-term educational and social development of low-income, minority children who grew up in high-poverty neighborhoods in central-city Chicago and attended government-funded kindergarten programs in the Chicago Public Schools. You can learn more about the study here.

Initially implemented in four sites in Chicago and later expanded to 25, the CPC program originally served families in high-poverty neighborhoods that were not being served by other early childhood programs. The program was substantially revised in 2012 by Arthur Reynolds at the University of Minnesota as a comprehensive school reform model to serve children in a broad variety of geographic and economic contexts.

Under an Investing in Innovation Grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Human Capital Research Collaborative (HCRC) began the Midwest CPC Expansion program in 2012 in four school districts, including St. Paul, Minnesota, and Chicago, Evanston, and Normal in Illinois. By partnering with local education and nonprofit agencies in Illinois, Wisconsin, and  Minnesota, the University of Minnesota is working to implement, research, and sustain the CPC P-3 model in high-need schools. The project is directed by Dr. Arthur Reynolds at the University’s Human Capital Research Collaborative. Co-principal investigators include Dr. Art Rolnick from the University of Minnesota, Dr. Judy Temple from the University of Minnesota, and Barbara Bowman from Erikson Institute.

The project’s purpose is to validate and assess generalizability of the CPC P-3 model to a broad array of social contexts. In the current project, a target group of nearly 2,500 preschool children in 30 schools is being compared with children in comparison schools receiving typical services and followed to the end of the program in 3rd grade.  More than 6,000 additional students will receive program services in kindergarten to 3rd grade.

The Midwest CPC Expansion (MCPC) has been a hallmark project of the HCRC, a partnership between the University of Minnesota and the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis to promote effective public policies and programs for young people through multidisciplinary research on human development and learning.