A new study by researchers at NYU evaluated Head Start programs in Chicago's high-risk neighborhoods and found evidence suggesting that early childhood programs positively affect academic achievement.

Student in a classroom sitting in front of a teacher

A new study published in PLOS ONE by researchers from New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development examined the long-term impacts of an early childhood program called the Chicago School Readiness Project (CSRP) and found evidence suggesting that the program positively affected children’s executive function and academic achievement during adolescence.

The program targeted children’s self-regulation skills while also raising the quality of inner-city Head Start classrooms serving high-risk neighborhoods in Chicago. Researchers have been following the children involved in the study since the beginning of preschool through the high school years.

“Although we did not find large impacts on all of the outcomes assessed, the positive results for executive function and academic achievement were certainly encouraging,” said lead author and Research Assistant Professor, Tyler Watts. “We think these results suggest that high-quality programs can produce important effects on key long-term outcomes.”

The Chicago School Readiness Project was launched in 2004 and conducted by NYU’s Deputy Provost C. Cybele Raver. To evaluate the success of the program, Raver implemented a randomized control trial, and 602 children enrolled in inner-city Head Start classes participated in the study. Initial results found that the program boosted children’s early school readiness, but these positive effects slipped away when children entered elementary school. Despite seeing early signs of “fadeout,” Watts and Raver decided to conduct further follow-up to see if effects might be detected during adolescence, a developmentally critical period.

“Many recent early childhood interventions have found that effects fade in the years immediately following the end of the program,” Watts explained. “Unfortunately, most of these studies have not continued to follow-up with participants past elementary school. Our results suggest that if we expect early programs to produce long-lasting results, then we should keep looking at outcomes at least into adolescence.”

Jill Gandhi, Deanna A. Ibrahim and Michael D. Masucci also contributed to this study. The full research article can be viewed online at http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0200144.

Research reported in this press release was supported by Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health under award number R01HD046160 ($8,710,213) and the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, under award number R305A160176 ($3,210,436). This project was completely financed with federal money. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health or the Institute of Education Sciences.

About New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development
Located in the heart of New York City’s Greenwich Village, NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development prepares students for careers in the arts, education, health, media and psychology. Since its founding in 1890, the Steinhardt School's mission has been to expand human capacity through public service, global collaboration, research, scholarship, and practice. To learn more about NYU Steinhardt, visit steinhardt.nyu.edu.

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