Nurturing School-Ready Kids
The best way to increase high school performance and graduation rates is to improve education beginning from early childhood. Guided by this insight, The Kenneth and Anne Griffin Foundation teamed up with economists John List and Steven Levitt of the University of Chicago, and Roland Fryer of Harvard University, to create the Chicago Heights Early Childhood Center (CHECC).
CHECC, located in Chicago Heights, Illinois, comprises both a free, all-day preschool for children ages three to five and an “academy” where parents learn the skills needed to support their children in school. Through a lottery, families are assigned to the preschool, the parent academy, or a control group. Within each group, the researchers are seeking to learn which methodologies work best and which incentives are most motivating:
- Within the preschool, one group of children follows a curriculum emphasizing basic academic skills (e.g., numbers, letters, colors), while the other group's curriculum emphasizes social and emotional skills.
- Within the parent academy, one group of parents receives immediate cash payments, while the other group receives deferred college funds based on their attendance and demonstrated improvement by their children.
With a $10 million contribution from The Kenneth and Anne Griffin Foundation, Dr. List and his colleagues are impacting close to 900 students. The researchers will track their development through elementary, middle, and high school, and even into their adult lives. Such longitudinal studies in education are rare, and provide important information to support a better understanding of the long-term effects of early childhood education. Now in its second year, CHECC is producing important early insights:
- The preschool curriculum designed to focus on cognitive skills has produced 19 months worth of student gains in a 10-month period.
- Children in both preschool curricula are outperforming the achievements of the average 5-year-old entering kindergarten. In the parent academy, children of those receiving cash incentives are close behind.
- The parent academy program shows promise in our ability to coach parents and demonstrates the principal that good parenting can, in fact, be taught.
The Chicago Heights Early Childhood Center also serves as a living lab. Researchers from leading universities and from many different fields leverage CHECC’s experimental design to conduct short-term research of their own. See an overview of the research being conducted at CHECC.
Visit the Chicago Heights Early Childhood Center website. View the facebook page.
Read about CHECC’s establishment in Chicago Maroon and the University of Chicago magazine.