Program Overview and History

The Child-Parent Center (CPC) Program is a center-based early intervention that provides comprehensive educational and family-support services to economically disadvantaged children from preschool to early elementary school. The CPC program was established in 1967 through funding from Title I of the landmark Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. It is the second oldest (after Head Start) federally funded preschool program in the U. S. and is the oldest extended early childhood intervention. Initially implemented in four sites and later expanded to 25, the program is designed to serve families in high-poverty neighborhoods that are being served by other early childhood programs. The overall goal of the program is to promote children's academic success and to facilitate parent involvement in children's education.

The development of the Chicago Child-Parent Centers can be traced to the middle of 1966 when the General Superintendent of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) asked Dr. Lorraine M . Sullivan, Superintendent of District 8 and the program founder, to report on ways to improve student attendance and achievement in her district. District 8 was located in the center of the North Lawndale community area and had one of the highest concentrations of poverty in the city. Dr. Sullivan's report emphasized four elements for building academic success: (i) parent involvement in the early years of school, (ii) instructional approaches tailored to children's learning styles and designed to develo p their speaking and listening skills, (iii) small class sizes to provide for individual attention, and (iv) attention to health and nutritional services. These principles were implemented through the establishment of four Child-Parent Education Centers in May 1967.

Currently, the CPC program operates in 24 centers throughout the Chicago Public Schools. The centers provide services in preschool (ages 3 or 4) and/or kindergarten; 13 centers implement the primary-grade program from first to third grade. The preschool and kindergarten components of the program are funded through Title I of the Improving America School Act (or Elementary and Secondary Education Act). Since 1977, the primary-grade program (also called the Expansion program) has been funded by Title I through the State of Illinois. 18 centers are in separate buildings proximate to the elementary school and 6 are in wings of the parent elementary school (see Table 1 for program facts).

Table 1 Child-Parent Center Facts and Figures

Number of Centers: 24
Number of Children and Ages Served: 5,600 at Ages 3 to 9
Components: Half-day Preschool
Half or Full-Day Kindergarten in 19 centers
First to Third grade in 13 elementary schools
Staffing: Head Teacher
Parent-Resource Teacher
School-Community Representative
Classroom Teachers and Aides
Clerk and Janitor
Eligibility: 3- and 4-year-olds in Title I attendance areas who 
are not enrolled in another preschool program, are 
most-in-need, and whose parents agree to participate regularly.
Funding: Federal and State Title I
Honors 1998: Title I Distinguished Schools National Recognition Program. 
1976: Exemplary Program, Joint Dissemination Review Panel, U. S. Office of Education
1974: Outstanding Reading Program, Right to Read Office, U. S. Office of Education

Source: Department of Early Childhood Education, Chicago Public Schools, 125 South Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60603.

The major rationale of the program is that the foundation for school success is facilitated by the presence of a stable and enriched learning environment during the entire early childhood period and when parents are active participants in their children's education. Four features are emphasized: early intervention, parent involvement, a structured language-based instructional model, and program continuity between the preschool and early school-age years. Each center tailors instructional activities to the needs of participating children and parents.