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Dave is a KARA volunteer intern from Century College and an occasional author on this site;

The Positive Effects of Child-Parent Centers on Education
By Dave Mast

Few problems facing children of all ages have been discussed as often as that of substandard education. More specifically, the American education system has been under attack from a number of sources.
However, the situation has yet to improve, possibly because the programs that work are not highlighted, instead only those that have failed are.

How bad has the situation in the United States become? Roughly 18% of children are not familiar with the basic rules of printing or writing. However, when looking at children with mothers who did not obtain their high school diplomas, this number increased drastically to 32%. In contrast, only 8% of children with mothers who have college degrees struggle with the basic rules of writing (Siegel & Welsh, 2006, p. 336).

The seriousness of the state of America’s education system can be demonstrated by looking at the effects, both short and long-term, that the failure of the system can have on a child. For example, the annual income that a juvenile can expect to earn as an adult is significantly lower if he or she drops out of high school. For adults 18-65 years old, the average annual income of high school dropouts is only $20,000, compared to $30,000 for those who graduate from high school or obtain their GED (Siegel & Welsh, 2006, p. 336).

A grimmer example of the effects that unsuccessful education can have on children is related to criminal activity. Though 74% of non-offenders graduated from high school, only 9% of chronic offenders obtained their diplomas. Another look at the subject shows that less than 40% of incarcerated felons in America completed 12 or more years of education. In contrast, 80% of the general population has completed the same level of education.

More important than identifying the effects that educational failure can have on children is the need to determine which programs are effective in stopping such a downward spiral and making them available to more American children. Arguably one of the best programs to date was started in Chicago in 1967 and uses what are known as Child-Parent Centers (CPCs). CPCs are located in low income areas in the Chicago public school system, and are available for children to start at three to five years of age.

Through parental involvement, the children enrolled in CPCs are able to develop reading, writing, and math skills, while their parents learn about topics related to child growth, development, health, safety, and nutrition (Chicago Public Schools, 2010).

The benefits reaped from enrollment in CPCs have been demonstrated in a number of studies involving juveniles and adults who received educational enrichment from the program. One such study was conducted by Reynolds, Temple, Robertson, and Mann in 2001. This study compared a group of adults who had completed an educational program at a CPC prior to entering kindergarten with a group whose members had not been enrolled in a CPC.

Through the use of justice system records, educational records, and family surveys, the study obtained the following results: CPC graduates enjoyed a 29% higher rate of high school completion, a 41% lower rate of placement in special education, and a 40% reduction in grade retention (the need to repeat a grade or course). Similarly, those in the study who attended a CPC had a 33% lower rate of juvenile arrest, 42% reduction in the rate of arrest for violent offenses, and a 51% lower rate of child maltreatment by their parents (Reynolds, et al, 2001).

The sustained success of the Child-Parent Centers in Chicago offers some hope to areas with struggling rates of high school completion and kindergarten readiness. For example, in Minneapolis, the rate of kindergarten readiness for students in 2006 and 2007 were only 57% and 59%, respectively (City of Minneapolis, 2010). Kindergarten readiness is a measurement of the students’ abilities in the areas of counting, vocabulary, listening, and alphabetical understanding.

Those who are not considered “kindergarten ready” may experience considerable difficulty keeping up with their classmates as their education progresses. Thus, the implementation of programs such as Child-Parent Centers can help youth who otherwise would struggle with their education and prevent them from turning to delinquent behavior as they grow older.

Chicago Public Schools. (2010). Child Parent Center (CPC). Retrieved July 25, 2010, from http://www.cps.edu/Schools/Preschools/Pages/Childparentcenter.aspx
City of Minneapolis. (2010). Minneapolis kindergarten readiness. Retrieved August 7, 2010, from http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/results/kindergarten.asp
Reynolds, A. Temple, J., Robertson, D., & Mann, E. (2001). Age 21 Cost-Benefit Analysis of the Title I Chicago Child-Parent Center Program. Retrieved July 25, 2010, from http://www.waisman.wisc.edu/cls/cbaexecsum4.html
Siegel, L., & Welsh, B. (2006). Juvenile Delinquency: Theory, Practice, and Law. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning

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  1. Sounds like an excellent program. Would be great to see it expand into other cities. Has it only been implemented in Chicago?

  2. It sounds similar (to a lesser degree) to the Harlem’s Children Zone. Like Susan, I am curious about what other programs have been implemented, how they have been implemented and the costs associated with them. I feel like so many programs exist, but that implementation fails in other locations because people are afraid of the costs.

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