Kids' Involvement & Diversity Study (KIDS): Racial Variations in Understandings and Experiences of Organized Youth Activities

Tue, 10/23/2018 - 07:54

Out-of-school activities have provided many multi-faceted benefits to children and their development.  Children from middle-income families have greater participation in out-of-school enrichment activities than do children from lower-income families.   Douglas Hartman and Teresa T. Swartz discuss research done by KIDS throughout the metropolitan area on the relation between social inequality and youth activities.

Douglas Hartmann, Ph.D. - Professor, Department of Sociology

Teresa T. Swartz, Ph.D. - Associate Professor, Department of Sociology

Kids' Involvement and Diversity Study (KIDS)

Effective Learning Experiences in Preschool and School Readiness

Fri, 07/13/2018 - 09:53

Quality in early childhood programs has been a longstanding priority in policy and practice. Identifying the contribution of specific elements of high quality or effective learning experiences (ELE) is critical in scaling effective programs to population levels. This Brief summarizes preschool findings for five ELEs in the Midwest Child-Parent Center (CPC) Expansion Project: (1) full-day preschool, (2) small classes (17 or fewer children), (3) balance of teacher-directed and child-initiated instruction, (4) a high percentage of instructional time in core domains, and (5) an engaging classroom environment. Midwest CPC is a scale-up of the CPC program established in Chicago. The program has demonstrated sustained effects on well-being from school readiness to adult educational and socioeconomic success. Based on 2012-2013 implementation and school data for over 2,000 preschool students in Chicago and Saint Paul Public School Districts, 80% of children experienced 3 or more ELE elements. This was exclusive of B.A. certified/licensed teachers (which all children had). Given that full-day preschool was limited to 25% of Chicago children and was not available in Saint Paul, the prevalence of ELE is high. Evidence was strong in Chicago that preschool learning gains increased as the number of ELEs increased. In analyses that included fall baseline performance, family and child characteristics, full-day preschool and small classes were the largest and most consistent predictors of gains during the year in literacy, math, and socio-emotional learning. Findings indicate that structural program elements are important contributors to learning gains and positively influence the instructional context necessary for effective preschool experiences.

Read the full brief

All Children Deserve Highly Effective Early Education

Fri, 03/02/2018 - 16:37

Strengthening early education means doing what works for all children. This is the vision of the Minnesota Early Learning Council and is directly supported in the World’s Best Work Force statute. The unifying goal is that all children will be ready for school at kindergarten entry.

The best available evidence indicates that only half of all Minnesota children entering kindergarten are fully ready in literacy, math, and socio-emotional skills. Since the vast majority of young learners are from middle-income families, large increases are needed across the income spectrum to meet the universal readiness goal in any realistic time frame. Only a universal system of access can accomplish this. The targeted approaches advocated by Close Gaps by Five, Think Small, and others address only part of the need.

Increasing readiness for all is an accelerating national trend. In a recent national and bipartisan poll of voters, only 18 percent said they have high-quality and affordable programs in their local community, and 85 percent favored increased public support to middle- and low-income families to address these problems. Since nearly four in five 4-year-olds are in some form of out-of-home education and care, the situation is most pressing. All children, regardless of income and ZIP code, deserve access to early education that is highly effective and affordable.

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How the University can help Minnesota reach its ambitious early education goal

Fri, 03/02/2018 - 16:06

The new year provides an opportunity to accelerate progress in early education. Minnesota has high aspirations. The World's Best Work Force statute states that by 2020 all children will be ready for school.

Although Gov. Mark Dayton has championed early education with the new voluntary pre-K program for 4-year-olds and other investments, Minnesota remains far short of the 2020 goal and continues to lag other states in access to high quality programs.

As a land-grant institution, the University of Minnesota has a substantial role in improving early childhood education. Given the relatively low standing of Minnesota, the university can be a more effective contributor. To address key challenges, the Human Capital Research Collaborative at the university conducts research on the effectiveness of education programs. We see three major ways the university can help improve access and quality for young learners.

Read the full commentary

How the University can help Minnesota reach its ambitious early education goal?

Fri, 03/02/2018 - 08:10

The new year provides an opportunity to accelerate progress in early education. Minnesota has high aspirations. The World's Best Work Force statute states that by 2020 all children will be ready for school.

Although Gov. Mark Dayton has championed early education with the new voluntary pre-K program for 4-year-olds and other investments, Minnesota remains far short of the 2020 goal and continues to lag other states in access to high quality programs.

As a land-grant institution, the University of Minnesota has a substantial role in improving early childhood education. Given the relatively low standing of Minnesota, the university can be a more effective contributor. To address key challenges, the Human Capital Research Collaborative at the university conducts research on the effectiveness of education programs. We see three major ways the university can help improve access and quality for young learners.

Read the full commentary

Fifty Years of the Child-Parent Center Education Program in Chicago and Beyond

Mon, 11/06/2017 - 17:22

In a recent symposium presentation at the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management (APPAM) conference in Chicago on November 4, 2017, 50 years of the CPC program was described with a focus on future directions. The session was chaired by Arthur Reynolds (Professor, University of Minnesota) and Lisa Heiskell-Topkins (CPC Manager, Chicago Public Schools).

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Child-Parent Center (CPC) Education Program. In the earliest use of federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act Title I dollars for early childhood, the Child-Parent Center (CPC) program opened in 1967 within the Chicago Public Schools to offer expanded preschool services to children in the highest poverty neighborhoods. Kindergarten through 3rd grade services were added the next year. The combination of a high-quality preschool, a strong parent involvement emphasis, and an integrated curriculum and small class sizes through the early years of elementary school has been served as the model for what is now called PreK-3rd or PK-3 programs and alignment efforts.

One important objective of the extended and coherent PK-3 educational interventions is to sustain early learning gains. In recent years, researchers studying the Child-Parent Centers were the recipients of a federal i3 Investing in Innovation grant to expand CPC programs into other Midwest cities, including Saint Paul (MN), Evanston (IL), and Normal (IL, McLean County). Also in recent years, the demonstrated success of the CPC program has caught the attention of social entrepreneurs who believe that this early childhood program not only is effective but has the potential to save local governments and school districts more money than it costs. In 2015, a major expansion of the Chicago CPC program was funded by Goldman Sachs, the Pritzker Family Foundation, and Northern Trust Bank as the third Pay for Success social impact financing initiative funded within the U.S.

The following presentations were made:

Arthur Reynolds: 

Child Parent Center Historical Context

Child-Parent Center Interviews on Intergenerational and Continuity

Benefits of full-day preschool

Lisa Heiskell-Tompkins: 

Judy Temple (University of Minnesota):

Barbara Bowman (Erikson Institute): 


Study on Child-Parent Center PreK-3rd program shows strategies for reducing the achievement gap

Thu, 11/02/2017 - 12:48

A new study shows that successful implementation of preschool to 3rd grade programs yields benefits in increasing school readiness, improving attendance, and strengthening parental involvement in school education –– strategies that can close the achievement gap for children at risk.

Scaling and Sustaining Effective Early Childhood Programs Through School-Family-University Collaboration” was published in the September/October 2017 issue of Child Development by Arthur Reynolds, a University of Minnesota professor of child development, and colleagues in the Human Capital Research Collaborative (HCRC).

The Child-Parent Center Preschool to Third Grade program (CPC P-3) is a collaborative school reform model designed to improve school achievement and family engagement from ages three to nine. The program provides small classes, intensive learning experiences, menu-based parent involvement, and professional development in co-located sites. In the study, investigators evaluated evidence from two longitudinal studies, the Chicago Longitudinal Study begun in the 1980s and Midwest CPC that started in Minnesota and Illinois in 2012.

“We found that organizing preschool to third grade services through partnerships with schools and families creates a strong learning environment for ensuring that early childhood gains are sustained, thus reducing the achievement gap,” said Arthur Reynolds, HCRC co-director.

Implementation in five Saint Paul Public Schools serving high proportions of dual language learners led to gains in literacy of nearly a half a year at the end of preschool. The gains were sustained in kindergarten with further evidence of increased parent involvement and attendance. Small classes and engaged instruction contributed to these gains.

“Thanks to the support of the CPC P-3 program, family rooms at the five Saint Paul Public School sites are vibrant and welcoming environments,” said Kathleen Wilcox-Harris, chief academic officer of the Saint Paul Public School District. “It is not uncommon to see a hub of activity in these spaces promoting the bridge between the home, community, and school environments. The program with guidance from HCRC has led to a menu of family engagement opportunities known as the Families First Menu of Opportunities that is being implemented at other sites. The small classes and preschool to third grade alignment of instruction has also been of substantial benefit.”

In collaboration with Saint Paul Public Schools and other implementation sites, guiding principles of the effectiveness of program expansion are shared ownership, committed resources, and progress monitoring for improvement. The addition of Pay for Success financing in the Chicago Public School District shows the feasibility of scaling CPC P-3 while continuing to improve effectiveness. Each dollar invested in the CPC P-3 program has demonstrated a return of $10 in reduced need for remedial services and improved well-being.

Findings from the study support increased investment during the early grades. As documented in a recent Education Week commentary: Spending on early childhood development in the first decade of life is a smart investment.

“Since only about half of young children are enrolled in public PreK programs, and less than 10 percent participate in P-3 programs that follow the key principles of CPC, increased access to high-quality education and family support services can make a big difference in reducing the achievement gap,” Reynolds said. “Nationally, only one third of fourth graders read proficiently on national assessments, and preschool or school-age programs alone are not enough to raise these rates to acceptable levels, especially for the most vulnerable children. CPC not only helps children be school ready, but improves reading and math proficiency over the school grades, which led to higher rates of graduation and ultimately greater economic well-being.”

Human Capital Research Collaborative, an interdisciplinary research institute in the Institute of Child Development, College of Education and Human Development offers a multitude of resources for CPC P-3 implementation, including monitoring tools, manuals, and extensive resources on the website,

Funding for the study is from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, U. S. Department of Education, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Aligned Curriculum and Collaborative Leadership are Key to School Reform

Tue, 08/15/2017 - 10:27

Sustaining early learning gains requires a comprehensive and effective system of services from preschool through the school-age years. Findings from the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress show the urgent need to improve achievement, as only 37% of U. S. 4th graders are proficient readers.i  One year of preschool will not solve this problem. Reflecting the dual importance of high-quality preschool and effective K-3 services, Child-Parent Center (CPC) P-3 is a school reform model designed to create a strong and sustainable culture of learning through 3rd grade. The six core elements are collaborative leadership, aligned curriculum, effective learning experiences, parent involvement, professional development, and continuity and stability. This Brief focuses on data from the Midwest CPC Expansion Project – a scale-up of CPC P-3 implemented across four school districts in Illinois and Minnesota from 2012 to 2017. In addition to data on student outcomes, the project yielded documentation related to program structure and implementation. In this Brief, we draw on this documentation to develop measurable indicators of two key CPC program elements – Aligned Curriculum and Collaborative Leadership. Using these indicators, we examine how the two program elements were implemented in CPC sites, and whether their implementation predicted students’ school readiness skills.  Read the full report here.

Counteracting ACEs through CPC P-3

Mon, 08/14/2017 - 11:48

Cumulative Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are associated with many deleterious physical and mental health outcomes, but early childhood interventions and education programs, such as CPC P-3, may facilitate healthy development among ACE-affected children. CPC P-3's unique system of supports helps promote lifelong well-being by reducing family stress and exposure to adversity and by promoting children’s school readiness, achievement, and socio-emotional learning. 

Learn more about ACEs
There is increasing evidence that ACEs predict disparities in educational, socioeconomic, and crime outcomes. Learn more about ACEs from our fact brief of from the 

presentation by Allie Giovanelli, Institute of Child Development, UMN, on Adverse Childhood Experiences: Longitudinal outcomes in context of environmental risk & intervention.

To the Citizens of the United States: Our Children Need Your Protection

Mon, 08/14/2017 - 11:42

Huffington Post
05/02/2017 02:17 pm ET

Rachel Katz, PhD Student, Child Study and Human Development, Tufts University
Julia Fleckman, PhD Candidate, Public Health, Tulane University
Alison Giovanelli, PhD Candidate, Developmental Psychopathology and Clinical Science, University of Minnesota
Melissa Marquardt, PhD student, Clinical Psychology, University of Oregon
Jennifer Daer Shields, PhD Student, Clinical Psychology, Oklahoma State University

Dear Fellow Citizens,

Are you aware that issues related to child well-being have never taken center stage in any presidential administration? The platitudes of our past presidents have emphasized the importance of protecting our children. However, meaningful change has yet to be enacted at the necessary level. This is astonishing given both the immediate and long-term impacts that prioritizing child well-being could have on protecting the lives of our nation’s youth. This ultimately will allow for our young people to grow into thriving adults who can actively contribute to our nation’s progress. Political ideologies aside, we urge you to undertake the fight to provide all children with the chance to reach their maximum potential by encouraging your Congressional representatives to support the following initiatives:

1. Expand Medicaid and access to quality preventative care for low-income families. The current administration has proposed extensive changes to our healthcare system. These changes would have far-reaching implications for the prevention of child maltreatment. If the current Medicaid expansion were repealed, systems that support our nation’s most vulnerable families would suffer.

Importantly, the Medicaid expansion currently provides increased coverage to low-income adults, many of whom are working parents. Coverage includes behavioral and substance use services. Such services are essential, as many parents who have maltreated their children report higher levels of mental and physical health problems than the general population. Parenting can be stressful, and this stress is compounded for families living in poverty. Increased parental stress has been found to strongly contribute to higher rates of harsh parenting, abuse, and neglect. There is a simple solution: Reduce the likelihood of child maltreatment by providing the treatment needed for non-elderly, low-income adults and parents. Allow our most vulnerable families to keep their benefits provided under the Medicaid expansion.

Further, access to high quality early home visiting services during pregnancy or at birth, particularly for those living in poverty, has been shown to benefit families and children directly while reducing costs to society. According to a report by Mathematica Policy Research, home visitation program participation promotes positive short- and long-term outcomes related to maternal and child health, maltreatment rates, parenting practices, and school readiness. The effects of this type of program can reverberate for decades, as studies also show reductions in juvenile delinquency and improvements in family economic self-sufficiency. These are exactly the types of programs we as a nation should be investing in to protect our children. At present, less than 6% of low-income new parents have access to this level of support. When making decisions about where to invest our healthcare dollars in ways that maximize our return on investment, we urge you to listen to the evidence: Investing in prevention is key.

2. Expand access to high quality child care options. In the United States, over 60% of children under the age of five are placed in child care. Research demonstrates that high quality child care can promote positive cognitive, social-emotional, and behavioral development and protect against risks that compromise development. It is therefore essential that we make it easier for families to find, access, and utilize quality child care services.

In reality, low-income children are less likely to be placed in formal child care arrangements. When they are, the quality of care is often substandard, thereby placing children at additional risk. If there is such a great need for quality, affordable child care, why is there no national policy? In 1971, Congress passed a bill to create a universal, federally funded child care system, but this bill never received presidential support. Most recently, President Obama took action to make child care and early education a national priority through initiatives such as universal preschool, tax cuts for families paying for child care, and expanding access to quality child care for working families. These were critical first steps, but much more needs to be done.

Again, our programs and policies fail to reflect our research findings and current economic climate. According to a 2015 report by the Council of Economic Advisers, investments in high quality early education generate economic returns of over $8 for every $1 spent. However, existing funding levels fail to cover all of the families that are in need of child care support. Only 14% of eligible children receive child care subsidies, Early Head Start programs serve less than 4% of eligible children, and the Child Care and Development Block Grant provides assistance to only 10% of eligible children. We can do better. We must urge Congress to make early education a priority. It is essential that the national budget prioritize our nation’s child care needs.

3. Invest in learning how to best prevent child maltreatment and enhance child well-being.It is clear that substantial gaps exist between research and policy in how to most effectively prevent child maltreatment and allow our children to reach their full potential. Research provides a strong foundation of evidence with which policymakers can shape governmental priorities. The current funding and capacity for research is woefully inadequate, particularly in regard to identifying ways to best support parents in the challenges of raising children, and to improve basic services that every child needs to be successful.

In order to effectively bridge the gap between research and policy in this area, we ask you to help prioritize partnerships for developing research and data analysis strategies. Although some research is being conducted for the promotion of child well-being, there is a critical need to examine how to prevent child maltreatment and further help our children thrive. At a federal level, there exists great opportunity to provide funding for, and directly collaborate with, researchers with the expertise to address these gaps and create a better future for all of our children.

Fellow citizens, we urge you to encourage Congress to make protecting our country’s children a priority. Invest in our children by improving prevention and intervention efforts to support vulnerable families. Ask Congress to support programs and efforts that will reduce barriers to care and that will prevent children from being exposed to maltreatment. Advocate for the continuation and expansion of funding for Medicaid. Help to promote the development of and funding for evidence-based parenting education and home visiting programs. Push for investments in universal high quality child care. If we do not make these investments now, our children and our society will continue to suffer. The cost of prevention is nothing compared to the worth of our children’s lives.


Young scholars who know the research and are eager to use it to provide a more informed and effective set of policy decisions

The authors are doctoral students from across the country who have received Doris Duke Dissertation Fellowships for the Promotion of Child Well-Being. The opinions expressed are the authors’ personal opinions and do not reflect those of any organization or the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

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