Promoting School Readiness

Did you know that since the 1960’s the achievement gap between low-income and high-income students has increased by nearly 40 percent? Did you know that over the past five years, rates of poverty in the U.S. have risen and 16% of our Dallas children live in extreme poverty (family income less than half of the federal poverty level)? Did you know that there is evidence of a causal role between children’s emotional and behavioral competence on their academic achievement? Did you know that teaching children self-regulation skills can help mitigate poverty’s impact?

The Learning How to Learn Forum will explore this topic in a two-day event, featuring key-note speaker, Cybele Raver.

Dr. Raver will discuss the Chicago School Readiness Project (CSRP). This intervention program recognizes that young children living in poverty are at greater risk for behavioral and emotional problems, factors that have been linked to children’s readiness for school. The CSRP provides teacher training, coaching, and mental health consultation in Head Start preschools and increases school readiness for children at risk by reducing their behavioral problems. While previous studies have shown that interventions in elementary school classrooms can help reduce older children’s behavioral problems, it was unclear whether an intervention targeting younger low-income children in urban preschools would provide similar benefits. The CSRP intervention program was developed to address this question and to trace its longer-term effects for school achievement.

According to Raver, “the project offered a remarkable opportunity to pursue twin aims: From a theoretical perspective, how much does children’s emotional and behavioral development matter for their later academic outcomes? Second, on the clinical and policy side, we asked: What concrete steps can early education settings such as Head Start programs take, to support children’s adjustment and to lower their behavioral risks over time?”

“Using the ‘gold standard’ in prevention science,” Raver said, “we are able to show that Head Start programs can take a set of clear, concrete steps to support teachers’ ability to effectively manage their classrooms. This research demonstrates that an intervention that helps preschool teachers to support children’s self-regulation can substantially benefit children’s mental health in meaningful and significant ways.”