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Programs that Work

Child-Parent Centers

Program Info
Program Overview
Program Participants
Evaluation Methods
Key Evaluation Findings
Probable Implementers
Implementation Detail
Issues to Consider
Example Sites
Contact Information
Available Resources
Last Reviewed


Program Info

Outcome Areas
Healthy and Safe Children
Children Ready for School
Children Succeeding in School
Strong Families

Students performing at grade level or meeting state curriculum standards
Students graduating from high school
Children not experiencing physical, psychological or emotional abuse
Families increasing economic self-sufficiency
Children ages 0 to 5 exhibiting age-appropriate mental and physical development
Children and youth not engaging in violent behavior or displaying serious conduct problems
Children experiencing good physical health

Topic Areas

     Age of Child
       Early Childhood (0-8)
     Type of Setting
       Child Care / Preschool
     Type of Service
       Family Support
       Health Care Services
       Instructional Support
       Parent Education
     Type of Outcome Addressed
       Behavior Problems
       Child Abuse and Neglect
       Cognitive Development / School Performance
       Juvenile Justice
       Physical Health

Evidence Level  (What does this mean?)

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Program Overview

The Chicago Child-Parent Centers (CPCs) provide comprehensive educational support and family support to economically disadvantaged children and their parents. The guiding principle of the program is that by providing a school-based, stable learning environment during preschool, in which parents are active and consistent participants in their child's education, scholastic success will follow. The program requires parental participation and emphasizes a child-centered, individualized approach to social and cognitive development.

The CPC program was founded in 1967 to serve families in high-poverty neighborhoods that were not being served by Head Start or similar programs, and it originally served preschool through third-grade students. The centers are part of the Chicago Public Schools system. They are traditionally housed in preschool facilities. Currently, the Chicago Public Schools operate 11 federal Title I CPC sites.

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Program Participants

CPC programming is currently only available to children in preschool. To be eligible to participate in the CPC program, children must reside in school neighborhoods that receive Title I funds. For children to participate in the program, their parents must commit to volunteering at a CPC on a weekly basis. The centers conduct outreach activities to recruit families who are in need.

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Evaluation Methods

Evaluations of the CPC program used information from the Chicago Longitudinal Study (CLS), which followed 1,539 low-income minority students (of whom 95 percent are African-American, and 5 percent are Hispanic). The students were scheduled to graduate kindergarten in 26 public elementary schools in Chicago in the spring of 1986. All children resided in neighborhoods eligible for Title I services. Among them were 1,150 children who were enrolled in 20 CPCs that had both preschool and kindergarten programs, and those students served as the "treatment" group. The comparison group consisted of 389 children who were students at six randomly selected schools participating in a full-day kindergarten program for low-income students. For some of the analyses, some of the children in the comparison group had received CPC services in grades one through three. At the start of the CLS, the majority of the two groups’ family and child characteristics were similar (Reynolds, 1997; Reynolds and Temple, 1995; Reynolds et al., 2001).

Students were followed for a total of 19 years, after which time the children were an average of 23-24 years old. At the 19-year follow-up, data were available for 91 percent of the original CPC program group and 89 percent of the original comparison group. A range of outcomes for the CPC program and the comparison children were compared at many points in time, beginning at prekindergarten, continuing in multiple school-age grades, and ending when the students were age 24. In addition, outcomes have been examined for children with varying levels of participation in CPCs. For example, a study by Reynolds (2000) assessed program outcomes through grades eight and nine for five different groups. The evaluation first examined students who participated in a CPC program during preschool versus all other children who did not attend preschool (but may have participated in school-age CPC programming). Next, the impact of any participation in the CPC program, regardless of length, was assessed. Third, the author studied the impact of any participation in the follow-on (school-age) program versus no participation in the follow-on program. Fourth, the author assessed the impact of total years of CPC program participation to determine whether there might be a cumulative effect of additional years of program involvement. Finally, the study looked at the impact of extended participation in the CPC program by comparing children who had participated for a total of more than four years up to six years with children who had participated in the program for only four years.

The sample sizes in the different studies varied based on the particular outcome measure evaluated and on the year of analysis (kindergarten; grades three, five, six, seven, eight, or nine; or at the 15-year or 19-year follow-ups). However, in most cases, the total sample size (for both the CPC group and comparison group combined) was more than 1,000. Student outcomes were assessed using a variety of measures including the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) standardized test of school readiness and math and reading achievement; school records regarding grade retention, graduation, placement in remedial/special education services, and delinquent behavior; arrest, conviction, and incarceration records; and child maltreatment reports. Most of the analyses in the evaluations cited in the next section under Key Evaluation Findings controlled for child, family, and school characteristics when comparing the mean differences between the CPC program children and the comparison group.

More recently, researchers have compared the costs of the CPC program with estimates of its outcome, to determine its cost-to-benefit ratio (Reynolds et al., 2002).

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Key Evaluation Findings

Overall, the CPC preschool program has shown effectiveness at improving a range of child and adolescent outcomes, with the largest benefits found for participation in the preschool program, and fewer (but still significant) benefits found for school-age participation. Major evaluation findings are as follows:

A study by Reynolds (1995) found the following:

  • When children who participated in (any amount of) CPC preschool were compared with children without any preschool:

    • CPC preschoolers outperformed the nonpreschoolers. The largest effect of preschool was on cognitive readiness at kindergarten school entry—a difference of about three months of learning performance between the two groups.

    • Effects of CPC preschool on achievement in reading and math remained statistically significant and meaningful in terms of educational gains through grade six.

    • Preschool participants also had consistently lower cumulative rates of grade retention, ranging from 6.6 percentage points to 8.5 percentage points.

    • Differences in rates of special education placement did not emerge until the third grade, but they were significant from grade three through grade six.

  • Comparing children with two years of CPC preschool with children with one year of CPC preschool produced the following findings:

    • Two-year participants significantly surpassed one-year participants in kindergarten cognitive readiness and in reading and math achievement during kindergarten. These differences represent about two months of learning performance.

    • Two-year participants had lower rates of grade retention by grade one, but by grade two and later, this difference was no longer significant.

    • Two-year participants had lower rates than one-year participants of special education placement during grades three, four, and five. However, the rates of special education placement were relatively low, and only the grade four difference was both statistically significant and sizeable.

Reynolds (2000); Reynolds et al. (2002) found the following at the completion of grade nine:
  • Children who attended a CPC preschool program for one year or two years as compared with children who did not attend preschool

    • scored higher on ITBS reading and math tests

    • were less likely to have ever been retained in a grade (23.0 percent versus 38.4 percent)

    • were less likely to ever be placed in special education and, for those who were placed in special education, spent an average of four fewer months in such services

    • were not significantly different in rates of school delinquency infractions (i.e., persistent truancy, fighting, theft, carrying weapons, and gang activity).

  • Children who had any CPC program participation (in preschool or elementary school) as compared with children who had no CPC exposure

    • scored significantly higher on both math and reading achievement

    • were significantly less likely to have been retained a grade (23.8 percent versus 34.3 percent)

    • were no less likely to have ever been placed in special education but, when placed in special education, spent fewer total years (0.40 years) receiving such services

    • were not significantly different in rates of school delinquency infractions.

  • Participation in the CPC "follow-on" intervention (provided in primary grades) compared with no participation was

    • associated with higher math achievement

    • not associated with higher reading achievement

    • associated with lower rates of grade retention (22 percent versus 30 percent)

    • associated with significantly fewer years spent in special education and marginally significantly lower rates of ever being placed in special education

    • associated with significantly lower rates of delinquency infractions at ages 13 to 15 (20.4 percent versus 26.3 percent), but no significant differences remained between groups at ages 15 to 16.

  • Participation in the CPC program for more than four and up to six years (the extended intervention) compared with participation for only four years was associated with

    • significantly higher reading and math test scores

    • significantly lower rates of grade retention (21.9 percent versus 32.3 percent)

    • no significant differences in years of special education placement

    • no significant differences in school delinquency infractions.

Reynolds et al. (2001, 2002) found the following at the 15-year follow-up (ages 20 to 21):

  • The CPC preschool group had significantly better outcomes than the nonpreschool group on

    • number of years of special education from ages 6 to 18 (0.73 years versus 1.43 years)

    • percentage of children who experienced child maltreatment (reports of abuse/neglect) from ages 4 to 17 (5.0 percent versus 10.3 percent)

    • arrests of any type (16.9 percent versus 25.1 percent) and violent arrests (9.0 percent versus 15.3 percent)

    • number of petitions to juvenile court by age 18 (an average of 0.45 versus an average of 0.78 petitions)

    • high school completion by age 21 (61.9 percent versus 51.4 percent)

    • highest grade completed by age 21 (grade 11 [0.23] versus grade 10 [0.87] on average).

  • School-age participation (with or without preschool participation) yielded

    • no improvement in educational attainment or juvenile arrests

    • lower rates of special education enrollment (15.4 percent versus 21.3 percent)

    • lower rates of grade retention (23.8 percent versus 34.3 percent).

  • The CPC extended intervention group outscored the nonextended group on

    • number of years of special education from ages 6 to 18 (0.56 versus 1.23 years, a marginally significant difference)

    • child maltreatment from ages 4 to 17 (3.6 percent versus 6.9 percent)

    • petitions to juvenile court for violent offenses by age 18 (9.3 percent versus 12.4 percent, a marginally significant difference).

Finally, Reynolds et al. (2007) reported the following outcomes at the 19-year follow-up (ages 23 to 24):
  • The CPC preschool group had significantly better outcomes than the nonpreschool group on

    • high school completion (71.4 versus 63.7 percent)

    • highest grade completed (11.7 versus 11.4)

    • four-year college attendance (14.7 versus 10.0 percent)

    • rate of felony arrest (16.5 versus 21.1 percent)

    • rate of incarceration (20.6 versus 25.6 percent)

    • rate of any conviction (20.3 versus 24.7 percent) (marginally significant)

    • rate of felony conviction (15.8 versus 19.9 percent)

    • rate of violent crime conviction (5.1 versus 7.1 percent) (marginally significant)

    • number of months having received any type of public aid (32.1 versus 28.3 months) (marginally significant)

    • rate of health insurance coverage (70.2 versus 61.5 percent)

    • depressive symptoms (12.8 versus 17.4 percent)

  • No significant differences were found between the preschool group and the nonpreschool group for attendance at any college, overall arrests, violent arrests, full-time employment, receipt of food stamps or public aid, birth of a child before age 18, substance use, or smoking.

  • School-age participation (with or without preschool participation) yielded

    • significantly fewer months receiving public aid, such as Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF), food stamps, or Medicaid) from ages 18-24 (33.9 versus 28.3 months)

    • marginally significantly lower rates of birth of a child before age 18 (34.1 versus 27.4 percent)

    • no significant group differences for any of the educational or crime outcomes, full-time employment, health insurance, substance use, smoking, or depression.

  • The CPC extended intervention group outscored the nonextended group on

    • high school completion (73.9 versus 65.5 percent)

    • highest grade completed (11.82 versus 11.51)

    • four-year college attendance (16.7 versus 13.1 percent) (marginally significant)

    • rate of arrest for violence (13.9 versus 17.9 percent)

    • rate of violent crime convictions (5.5 versus 8.0 percent)

    • rate of full-time employment (42.7 versus 36.4 percent)

    • rates of public aid receipt (58.8 versus 64.2 percent) (marginally significant).

  • No significant differences were found between the CPC extended intervention group and the nonextended group for college attendance, any incarceration, any arrest, felony arrest, any conviction, felony conviction, receipt of food stamps, birth of a child before age 18, any health insurance, smoking, substance use, or depression.

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Probable Implementers

Public and private preschools

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The program is funded by federal Title I funds.

Reynolds et al. (2002) estimate that the preschool program provided a return to society of $8.47 per dollar invested by increasing the economic well-being of participants and tax revenues from those participants and by reducing public expenditures for remedial education, child welfare, criminal justice treatment, and crime victims. The school-age program provided a return of $1.97 per dollar invested, while the extended intervention program (four to six years of participation) yielded a return to society of $7.25 per dollar invested (all numbers are converted to 2005 dollars).

The cost of the CPC program per participant is as follows:

  • For each year of the preschool program: $5,219.
  • For each year of the extended grade-school program: $1,874.
  • The average cost of the extended program (four to six years of participation): $11,862.

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Implementation Detail

Program Design

  • Each center is directed by a lead teacher, who acts as a program coordinator and has overall responsibility for organizing and implementing program services. This responsibility primarily involves collaborating with the classroom teachers and aides. The lead teacher is also responsible for organizing teacher training and workshops and for coordinating parental participation in the program.

  • To maximize individual learning opportunities, preschool class sizes are small, and each classroom has a teacher's aide in addition to a regular classroom teacher. The average teacher-to-child ratio is 1 to 8.

  • The smaller class size allows for a child-centered, individualized approach to language development, cognitive development, and improving social relations.

  • Each parent is required to volunteer at least one half-day per week at the CPC. Parental participation is designed to accommodate parents' daily schedules and needs.

  • A full-time staff member provides outreach services to CPC families. This outreach includes (1) recruiting families from the neighborhood who are most in need of CPC programming; (2) conducting home visits to families upon child enrollment and on a continuing as-needed basis; and (3) referring families to community and social services agencies, such as agencies providing employment training, mental health services, and welfare. The outreach worker provides transportation services to the center for families in need.

  • Upon enrollment, all entering children undergo a physical health screening, during which the child’s vision and hearing are tested. This screening is typically done off-site.

  • All students receive free breakfast and lunch.

The CPC program has a prescribed literacy curriculum, with other subject areas focusing on developing a particular type of learning style. The CPCs focus on a broad spectrum of activities, including individualized and interactive learning, small-group activities, and frequent teacher feedback.

The program is staffed by trained, regular classroom teachers and teacher's aides. In addition, each site requires three full-time administrative teachers and a lead teacher. All classroom teachers have an Illinois Type 04 Early Childhood Certificate. Finally, the centers are supported through the mandatory participation of parents.

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Issues to Consider

This program received a "proven" rating, despite the fact that the evaluations used a quasi-experimental design rather than randomly assigning children to treatment or control groups. The sample sizes for the analyses were adequate, and the researchers used rigorous empirical methods. The evaluations demonstrated sizeable and significant gains in several outcome areas over 19 years of follow-up.

Potential concerns regarding the comparability of the CPC children and the comparison group are mitigated by the extensive analysis the authors conducted to identify differences between the two groups. The groups were found to be similar on nearly all characteristics at the beginning of the study, the number and type of study participants who dropped out of the study over time were similar in the two groups, and the assignment of participants to the program was largely related to the fact that participating families lived in neighborhoods served by a CPC program (Reynolds et al., 2001; Reynolds and Temple, 1995). Nevertheless, the comparability of the treatment and comparison groups exhibits some weaknesses (Thompson, Reynolds, and Temple, 2001). Families in the CPC "treatment" group voluntarily chose to participate in the program, and parents were required to volunteer in the program regularly. The comparison group included not only these types of families, but perhaps also families who would not have chosen to participate in the program and parents who were not able to provide volunteer time at the CPC. Hence, the comparison group may have included some families who would not have participated in the CPC program had it been offered to them, and these families may be different from the participating families in unmeasured ways.

Additional research has found that participation in CPC preschool is associated with significantly better performance on all outcomes noted in this summary, even after site-level factors measuring the influences of the local setting and other family factors were taken into account. Analyses suggest that parent involvement in the program was significantly related to improved outcomes at both the kindergarten and high school levels (Clements, Reynolds, and Hickey, 2004).

One area that is left unresolved regarding the CPC program is the question of which services should consistently be delivered as part of the program. Given that the program has no specific guidance mandating that particular activities or curricula are offered, it is not clear which features of the program drive the CPC’s effectiveness.

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Example Sites


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Contact Information

Chicago Public Schools
Office of Early Childhood Education
125 South Clark Street, 9th Floor
Chicago, IL 60603

Attention: Sonja Griffin
Child-Parent Center Program
Tel: (773) 553-1958
Fax: (773) 553-2011
Email: sogriffin@cps.k12.il.us
Web site: http://www.ecechicago.org/programs/ece/cpc.html

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Available Resources

Chicago Longitudinal Study, Arthur J. Reynolds, Director, 1998-2002. As of September 29, 2008:

Newsletter of the Chicago Longitudinal Study, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Waisman Center, Issue 1, August 2000. As of September 29, 2008:

Newsletter of the Chicago Longitudinal Study, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Waisman Center, Issue 2, June 2002. As of September 29, 2008:

Reynolds, Arthur J., Success in Early Intervention: The Chicago Child-Parent Centers, Lincoln, Neb.: University of Nebraska Press, 2000.

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Clements, Melissa A., Arthur Reynolds, and Edmond Hickey, "Site-Level Predictors of Children's School and Social Competence in the Chicago Child-Parent Centers,"  Early Childhood Research Quarterly,  Vol. 19, No. 2, 2004, pp. 273-296. 

Reynolds, Arthur J.,  The Chicago Child-Parent Centers: A Longitudinal Study of Extended Early Childhood Intervention,  discussion paper no. 1126-97, Madison, Wisc.: Institute for Research on Poverty, 1997. As of September 29, 2008:  http://www.irp.wisc.edu/publications/dps/pdfs/dp112697.pdf

Reynolds, Arthur J.,  Success in Early Intervention: The Chicago Child-Parent Centers,  Lincoln, Neb.: University of Nebraska Press, 2000. 

Reynolds, Arthur J., "Effects of a Preschool Plus Follow-On Intervention for Children at Risk,"  Developmental Psychology,  Vol. 30, No. 6, 1994, pp. 787-804. 

Reynolds, Arthur J., "One Year of Preschool Intervention or Two: Does it Matter?"  Early Childhood Research Quarterly,  Vol. 10, 1995, pp. 1-31. 

Reynolds, Arthur J., H. Chang, and Judy A. Temple,   Evaluation Review,  Vol. 22, No. 3, 1998, pp. 341-372. 

Reynolds, Arthur J., and Judy A. Temple, "Extended Early Childhood Intervention and School Achievement: Age Thirteen Findings from the Chicago Longitudinal Study,"  Child Development,  Vol. 69, No. 1, 1998, pp. 231-246. 

Reynolds, Arthur J., and Judy A. Temple, "Quasi-Experimental Estimates of the Effects of a Preschool Intervention: Psychometric and Econometric Comparisons,"  Evaluation Review,  Vol. 19, No. 4, 1995, pp. 347-373. 

Reynolds, Arthur J., Judy A. Temple, Dylan L. Robertson, and Emily A. Mann, "Age 21 Cost-Benefit Analysis of the Title I Chicago Child-Parent Centers,"  Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis,  Vol. 24, No. 4, 2002, pp. 267-303. 

Reynolds, Arthur J., Judy A. Temple, Dylan Robertson, and Emily Mann, "Long-Term Effects of an Early Childhood Intervention on Educational Attainment and Juvenile Arrest,"  Journal of the American Medical Association,  Vol. 285, No. 18, 2001, pp. 2339-2346. 

Reynolds, Arthur J., Judy A. Temple, Suh-Ruu Ou, et. al., "Effects of a School-Based Early Childhood Intervention on Adult Health and Well-Being: A 19-Year Follow-Up of Low-Income Families,"  Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine,  Vol. 161, No. 8, August 2007, pp. 730-739. 

Temple, Judy A., Arthur J. Reynolds, and Wendy T. Miedel, "Can Early Intervention Prevent High School Dropout? Evidence from the Chicago Child-Parent Centers,"  Urban Education,  Vol. 35, No. 1, 2000, pp. 31-56. 

Thompson, Matthew D., Arthur J. Reynolds, and Judy A. Temple, "Letters—Early Childhood Educational Intervention and Long-term Developmental Outcomes,"  Journal of the American Medical Association,  Vol. 286, No. 15, 2001, pp. 1835-1836. 

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Last Reviewed

September 2008

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