CSRP has shown the benefits of high-quality Head Start preschool classrooms that emphasize teaching students how to regulate their emotions and behavior. These benefits extend to…
CSRP increased preschool students’ readiness to tackle the challenges of elementary school. Students in the intervention had higher levels of attention, were less impulsive, and performed better on tasks that measure executive function (Executive Function is students’ ability to process information and control their behavior to achieve goals). The children also demonstrated better early verbal and math skills. All of these findings show that CSRP really gave these children a leg up for entering elementary school!CSRP benefits low-income and ethnic minority students. The CSRP intervention improved the quality of Head Start classrooms for many students. Preschool teachers reported that the children in the CSRP intervention acted out less, got in trouble less, and were generally happier and more social. Researchers found that classrooms that focus on improving students’ self-regulation significantly reduced their behavioral and emotional problems.
Parents & Families
Mothers of the students in CSRP classrooms were significantly more likely to go back to school compared to those with students in the non-CSRP Head Start classrooms. Over 38% of the mothers of children in the CSRP program increased their education in the years following Head Start, and 27% completed a new degree. This additional schooling really paid off! The mothers who achieved a new degree made almost, on average, an additional $10,000 a year.
In addition to helping students, CSRP provided teachers with mental health support and trained them to manage and respond to stressful situations. Being a preschool teacher can be a very tough job. In the classroom, teachers must educate students while managing their behaviors and the stresses that come with teaching. Because of CSRP’s comprehensive classroom strategy, students did not act out as often, reducing teachers’ overall stress.
Longitudinal findings from the CSRP intervention include...
Long term impact of CSRP (Watts et al., 2018)
In 2018, we conducted a study to see if the CSRP program had long-term effects on indicators of children’s executive function, academic achievement, behavioral problems, and emotional regulation. The results of this study were mixed. The evidence suggested that children who participated in the CSRP intervention had higher scores on measures of adolescent executive functioning and academic achievement into their high school years when compared with their control group peers. In other words, we found some signs that the positive effects of CSRP lasted well into adolescence! However, not all of the CRSP program’s positive impacts displayed this longevity, as we found no long-term effects of the intervention on behavioral problems. Interestingly, adolescents in the treatment group displayed heightened sensitivity to angry and sad emotional stimuli relative to the adolescents in CSRP's control group.
Self-regulation and preacademic skills as mediators (McCoy et al., 2019)
To follow up on the results of the 2018 study, we investigated whether the long-term effects of CSRP were mediated by gains in self-regulation skills and preacademic skills during the Head Start years. In other words, were gains in these preschool skills the driving force behind the CSRP program’s long-term positive impact on adolescent executive functioning and academic achievement? The study results showed that gains in executive functioning in the Head Start years positively and significantly predicted executive functioning in the high school years. The researchers also found that vocabulary and early math skills in the Head Start years were both significantly predictive of high school grades. Interestingly, early math skills were also significantly associated with high school executive function, providing support to the idea that “skill begets skill”: early improvements in basic developmental processes can lay the foundation for acquiring more complex skills later in life.
Impact of CSRP on later school selection (Watts et al., 2020)
This 2020 study explored whether participation in the CSRP intervention influenced participants’ enrollment into high-quality high school programs, and whether this was driven by selection into higher quality elementary schools and higher middle school test scores. The researchers found that the CSRP program did have positive and statistically significant effects on students’ later selection into high-quality high schools. In fact, CSRP treatment students were significantly more likely to attend high schools with higher academic performance indicators than students in the CSRP control group. This result was true regardless of whether the student remained in the Chicago Public School (CPS) system. Interestingly, CSRP students were 11 percentage points more likely to leave the CPS district; perhaps reflecting an increased family preference for alternative schooling environments. There was little indication that selection into higher performing elementary schools and middle school test scores accounted for the observed impact on high school enrollment.
Mindset effects (Gandhi et al., 2020)
In 2020, we examined whether two widely-used (National Mindset Study; Yeager et al., 2016), light-touch mindset interventions boosted academic achievement in adolescent CSRP participants. This study examined the impact of these interventions on GPA as well as psychological processes thought to contribute to students’ academic achievement, including task diligence, anxiety, critical motivation, and sense of belonging in their schools. For this study, CSRP students were re-randomized, and students in the mindset intervention group received two brief mindset interventions one year apart. The first intervention targeted students’ purpose for learning by asking students to set personally meaningful objectives for their lives that could be attained through academic achievement. The second intervention sought to increase the students’ growth mindset, or the belief that academic ability can be improved through effort and practice. Both were self-administered by the students under researcher supervision.
The study failed to detect any significant effects of treatment from these two interventions on either academic achievement or psychological processes. Although some effects were positive, for example highly anxious students in the treatment group had higher math grades relative to their control-group counterparts and critical motivation increased in a small positive direction, no effect was statistically significant.