Education Dive, 2/13/19   The ‘transformative power’ of reaching children before kindergarten


Mothers dropping off their children at one of Public Prep’s elementary campuses — in either the Bronx, New York, or the Lower East Side of Manhattan — often have a much younger child with them in a stroller or carriage.

It’s a scene that would often leave Ian Rowe, CEO of the five-school network of single-sex charters, wondering what his schools — and the K-12 system in general — could do to better prevent some of the developmental and other delays seen in the schools’ pre-K and kindergarten students.

“There are large numbers of very young single mothers raising very young children,” Rowe said last week at a panel discussion hosted by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in Washington. “I was constantly thinking, how could we reach that toddler, who is still three years away from our Girls Prep or Boys Prep school?”

Then he discovered the Parent-Child Home Program (PCHP), a 50-year-old home-visiting program in which trained “early-learning specialists” conduct twice-weekly, 30-minute home visits to low-income families over a two-year period, beginning when the child is 18 months old. Each week, the families receive a book or an educational toy, and the specialists focus on modeling interaction with the child.

A year ago, the charter network launched a pilot with 30 families in which the program is delivered to younger siblings of current Public Prep students. And plans are underway to expand the partnership, Rowe said.

“There is a transformative power in reaching families before their children enter a classroom,” Sarah Walzer, CEO of PCHP, said during the event. While Public Prep won’t know for a few years how the visits benefit this particular group of children, Walzer presented data on both short- and long-term outcomes of the program. These include being 50% more likely to be considered ready for kindergarten, 30% more likely to graduate from high school, and 50% less likely to be identified for an Individualized Education Program.

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