Poverty-related risks may seriously jeopardize low-income children's opportunities for learning in school contexts. As many as 23% of low-income children in urban communities such as Chicago exhibit high levels of behavioral problems prior to school entry, and 24% of children enrolled in Chicago's public schools are at academic risk by 3rd grade (Li-Grining, Votruba-Drzal, Bachman, &Chase-Lansdale, 2006;Raver, 2002). Young children appear to be substantially underserved by community mental health services, with less than 1% of children receiving services prior to school entry (Yoshikawa &Knitzer, 1997). A central aim of the proposed plan of research is to examine the long-term impact of a classroom-based intervention designed to address these poverty-related disparities. This proposed plan of research seeks renewal of support for a project initially entitled "Emotions Matter" (renamed the Chicago School Readiness Project, or CSRP). The project was initially funded from 2003-2008 by the Inter-Agency Consortium on School Readiness. Using a clustered randomized control trial (or RCT) design, CSRP implemented a multi-component intervention targeting Head Start classrooms. Recent evidence from our research suggests that CSRP's universal and targeted services provided key regulatory support to children having behavioral difficulty as well as to those children demonstrating greater self-regulatory competence. Using a clustered, randomized design, CSRP results suggest that children in treatment-assigned programs showed significant academic and socioemotional gains as compared to their counterparts attending control-group assigned programs, with effect sizes ranging from d = .32 to d = .89. In the proposed follow-up study using a longitudinal, 2- cohort design, data will be collected from multiple reporters (including parents, teachers, and children's school records) across 6 waves of data collection. Our hypothesis is that the delivery of CSRP services in preschool has long-term social-emotional, and educational benefits for low-income, ethnic minority children as they make key, ecologically-salient transitions through elementary school. Specifically, in our final year of our current award, we are currently testing ways that preschool intervention may benefit children as they make the ecologically salient transitions into formal school contexts that pose increased behavioral and academic challenges (kindergarten and 1st grade). The 3rd and 5th grades arguably represent the next set of ecologically-salient points of developmental transition for CSRP-enrolled children, presenting them with a new set of behavioral and academic demands such as larger class size, high-stakes standardized testing, and placement decisions for middle or junior high school (Huston &Ripke, 2006). Most CSRP-enrolled children in cohorts 1 and 2 will be completing their 3rd grade year either in spring, 2010 or spring, 2011. The proposed plan of research aims to capitalize on this "window of opportunity," testing whether CSRP intervention services delivered in preschool have long-term benefit in helping children to successfully navigate these stage-salient behavioral and academic demands. In pursuing this aim, this project will test the efficacy of preventive interventions that can be implemented in social contexts of significant economic disadvantage, contributing to the public health mission of the NIH. We also hope to contribute to prevention research by understanding mediating mechanisms that may link intervention with children's outcomes and the ways that intervention may work similarly or differently for different groups of children. In addition, our findings are likely to contribute to fields of prevention science and public health research by examining ways that estimates of program impact may be substantially larger when programs'and families'propensities to participate in intervention are statistically taken into account.
Recent analyses suggest that the Chicago School Readiness Project, a multi-component, classroom-based intervention, confers clear benefits to young, low-income children by improving their school readiness. Our proposed 5-year follow-up study tests whether these benefits of the CSRP intervention are sustained from preschool through early elementary school. The revised plan of research proposes to test whether CSRP has a significant benefit for children's adjustment and early learning (as measured by standardized tests, school records, and reports from parents and teachers). It contributes to a growing area of research on poverty and preventive intervention in early childhood and sheds light on the steps that child-serving agencies can take to foster children's behavioral health and school success.
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