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Early Signs of Benefits for Boosting Parent-Child Education

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Pairing adult education services for parents with early learning for their children shows some promising signs to help families out of poverty, according to the first study of a Tulsa, Okla. intergenerational program.

I wrote about CareerAdvance Tulsa back in 2014, when it was part of a wave of pilot programs exploring how to support low-income families and their children in ways designed to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty

CareerAdvance, a partnership between the Community Action Project of Tulsa County, the city's Head Start and state early-child-care systems, and local community colleges, provides support for parents who do not have a college degree. Parents can earn stackable health-industry certificates through college courses timed to coincide with full-day, free early-learning programs for their children. The parents also receive peer mentors, up to $3,000 a year in tuition credits for meeting academic benchmarks, and in-kind supports like bus passes and child after-care.

The first report of the project's ongoing evaluation looked at its effects on Head Start children in the program, compared to a comparison group of students in Head Start. All of the 253 families in the study made on average a little over $15,000 a year for a family of four, and were matched on their parents' demographics and career interests. 

After a year, children whose parents were in CareerAdvance had attended more days of Head Start and were significantly less likely to be chronically absent than children in the control group. Participating parents reported less stress and significantly more career commitment and optimism than parents in the control group. And 49 percent of the participating parents had gotten jobs in the healthcare industry by the end of the year, compared to 31 percent of the comparison group.

The results are preliminary, but promising, considering the study is only in its first year. As Rebecca Goodman, a participating Tulsa mom, said back in 2014: "I don't want a free ride to anything. ... I just need a little help to get to where I need to go for my family."

Photo: Rebecca Goodman folds clothes at home in Tulsa, Okla., as her daughter Madelynn and son Cooper look on. Goodman participated in Tulsa's dual-generation education program through Head Start. Source: Shane Bevel for Education Week


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