Public Release:  NYU Langone research shows early investment in families helps children succeed in school

ParentCorps, developed at NYU Langone, holds promise for addressing achievement disparities

NYU Langone Medical Center / New York University School of Medicine

An innovative program that supports parents and teachers of public school pre-kindergarten students improves early academic achievement, according to a new study published in the April 15 online edition of Pediatrics. In a five-year study of 1,050 minority pre-kindergarten students from disadvantaged neighborhoods in New York City, NYU Langone researchers found that ParentCorps, a family-focused, school-based program, led to better achievement test scores and overall school performance.

Children from low-income families are ten times as likely as children from middle-class families to drop out of high school, and only half of black and Latino students in U.S. public schools graduate, according to the U.S. Department of Education. The stress and strain of poverty makes the job of parenting even more difficult, and early childhood teachers in disadvantaged areas face significant challenges in creating classrooms that support early learning for all children. The new study found that engaging and supporting parents and early childhood teachers put children on a pathway to success.

"All parents want their children to succeed. Parents are often hopeful and worried as their children start school, so offering ParentCorps at this key transition gives parents support at a time when they are highly motivated to make positive changes at home," said lead researcher Laurie Miller Brotman, PhD, Prevention Science Professor at the Child Study Center at NYU Langone. "Implementing ParentCorps as part of universal pre-k in public elementary schools means that all parents have access to the latest evidence on how to promote children's social, emotional and behavioral development - the foundation for success in school and life."

ParentCorps was developed by Dr. Brotman and her colleagues at NYU Langone in 2000 to promote self-regulation and early learning among children in disadvantaged urban neighborhoods. The program includes a series of group sessions for parents and children held at the school during early evening hours, and professional development for early childhood educators. ParentCorps helps schools engage families early on in their children's education, and supports parents and educators in using scientifically-proven strategies such as how to establish routines and rules, reinforce positive behavior and provide effective consequences for misbehavior.

The study is the second test of the impact of ParentCorps showing positive results on children's health and development. This study included nearly 90 percent of students enrolled in pre-kindergarten programs over four years in ten public elementary schools in two large New York City school districts with historically low high school graduation rates. Schools were randomized to receive ParentCorps or pre-k and kindergarten education as usual.

Results showed children in schools with ParentCorps had significantly higher kindergarten achievement test scores for reading, writing and math compared to children receiving education as usual, and more positive trajectories of academic performance from pre-kindergarten through kindergarten. In fact, by the fourth year of ParentCorps implementation in schools, the impact on reading achievement was comparable to the size of the achievement gap for poor and minority children, moving the average reader (50th percentile) to above average (69th percentile). Together with previously-reported program effects on obesity and behavior at school, findings indicate that ParentCorps has the potential to meaningfully improve children's lives.

"ParentCorps is one of a few programs shown to promote positive behavior, learning and health for young children living in underserved communities," said Dr. Brotman. "Public investment in programs that address disparities early in life can prevent costly problems later on and help children lead happier, healthier, more productive lives."

Dr. Brotman and her team are working with local and state leaders to bring ParentCorps to hundreds of elementary schools with pre-kindergarten programs serving low-income children.

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Co-authors of the study at NYU Langone include Spring Dawson-McClure, PhD, Esther J. Calzada, PhD, Keng-Yen Huang, PhD, Dimitra Kamboukos, PhD, Joseph J. Palamar, PhD and Eva Petkova, PhD.

Study funding was provided by the U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, grant R305F050245 and by the National Institutes of Health grant R01MH077331.

The Child Study Center at NYU Langone Medical Center is a recognized leader in the treatment of child psychiatric disorders through scientific practice, research, and education. The CSC offers a wide range of mental health services for children, adolescents, young adults and families and our experts specialize in the fields of child, adolescent and adult psychiatry, clinical psychology, neuropsychology, social work, pediatric neurology and education and academic achievement. The center recently moved to its new location at One Park Ave. in Manhattan, and has facilities in New Jersey and on Long Island. For more information, please visit the Child Study Center website or call (212) 263-6622.

About NYU Langone Medical Center

NYU Langone Medical Center, a world-class, patient-centered, integrated, academic medical center, is one of the nation's premier centers for excellence in clinical care, biomedical research and medical education. Located in the heart of Manhattan, NYU Langone is composed of four hospitals - Tisch Hospital, its flagship acute care facility; the Hospital for Joint Diseases, one of only five hospitals in the nation dedicated to orthopaedics and rheumatology; Hassenfeld Pediatric Center, a comprehensive pediatric hospital supporting a full array of children's health services; and the Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine, the world's first university-affiliated facility devoted entirely to rehabilitation medicine- plus NYU School of Medicine, which since 1841 has trained thousands of physicians and scientists who have helped to shape the course of medical history. The medical center's tri-fold mission to serve, teach and discover is achieved 365 days a year through the seamless integration of a culture devoted to excellence in patient care, education and research. For more information, go to http://www.NYULMC.org.

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