This is an early childhood, family-centered, school-based intervention for children and their families in low-income communities. The program is rated Promising. There were statistically significant effects on children’s academic performance and mental health problems, but no effect on early conduct problems. There were also statistically significant effects on parents’ knowledge, positive behavior support, and parental involvement, but no effect on harsh and inconsistent behavior management.
This program’s rating is based on evidence that includes at least one high-quality randomized controlled trial.
Program Goals/Target Population
ParentCorps is an early childhood, family-centered, school-based intervention for children and their families living in historically disinvested neighborhoods. The universal program targets children in pre-Kindergarten (pre-K) and is designed to help parents and teachers create safe, nurturing, and predictable environments for young children. ParentCorps is delivered as an enhancement to pre-K programs. The goal is to promote child self-regulation and early learning, at home and at school, by increasing positive behavior support (e.g., nurturing parent-child interactions), effective behavior management (e.g., consistent consequences for misbehavior), and parental involvement in education (e.g., parent-teacher communication).
The three main components of ParentCorps are 1) a 14-week parenting program for all families of pre-K students facilitated by school-based mental health professionals; 2) a 14-week social-emotional learning curriculum implemented by classroom teachers in all pre-K classrooms; and 3) professional development for school leaders, pre-K teachers, mental health professionals, and parent support staff, including weekly coaching for teachers and mental health professionals to support high-quality program implementation.
Facilitators for the parenting program use detailed session manuals to teach parents a specific set of strategies, including 1) daily routines, 2) positive parent-child interactions, 3) sharing books, 4) positive reinforcement, 5) proactive strategies, 6) selectively ignoring mild misbehavior, 7) consequences for serious misbehavior, and 8) helping children manage emotions. Initials sessions allow parents to share about their culture and discuss how culture influences parenting and child development. Parents set goals for their children and share them with other program participants, pre-K teachers, and other important caregivers. Group facilitators use a variety of techniques (such as role play and discussion about video clips) to encourage participation, reflection, and consideration of cultural and contextual influences on parenting and child development.
The 14-week program on social-emotional learning is provided in pre-K classrooms. During the 14 weeks, pre-K teachers use a consistent structure (e.g., child-directed play), positive behavior support and behavior management, and a parallel set of strategies to promote self-regulation and social-emotional skills among the children, including paying attention and identifying feelings. The parent- and child-facing components are integrated in a number of ways. For example, the pre-K teachers provide feedback to parents about their children’s progress toward individualized goals, and also offer periodic parent-child activities.
Finally, the program provides group-based, professional development activities for pre-K and kindergarten teachers, school leaders, mental health professionals, and parent support staff.
Achievement Test Scores
At the end of kindergarten, Brotman and colleagues (2013) found that children in the ParentCorps intervention schools had higher kindergarten achievement test scores (which included reading, writing, and math), compared with students in the control schools. This difference was statistically significant.
Teacher-Rated Academic Performance
At the end of kindergarten, children in the intervention schools had higher ratings from teachers on academic performance, compared with children in the control schools. This difference was statistically significant.
Child Conduct Problems
At the end of kindergarten, Dawson-McClure and colleagues (2015) found that there was no statistically significant effect of the ParentCorps intervention on children’s conduct problems.
At the end of kindergarten, there was a statistically significant intervention effect on measures of parents’ knowledge of positive behavior support and effective behavior management. Intervention group parents’ knowledge scores were higher, compared with control group parents’ scores.
Positive Behavior Support
There was a statistically significant intervention effect on measures of positive behavior support. At the end of kindergarten, intervention parents’ scores on positive behavior support were higher, compared with control group parents’ scores.
Harsh and Inconsistent Behavior Management
There was no statistically significant intervention effect on measures of harsh and inconsistent behavior management.
Teacher-Rated Parental Involvement
There was a statistically significant intervention effect on teachers’ reports of parental involvement. At the end of kindergarten, teachers’ reports of parental involvement for intervention parents were higher, compared with teachers’ reports of control group parents.
Parent-Rated Parental Involvement
There was no statistically significant intervention effect on parents’ reports of parental involvement.
Mental Health Problems
At the end of second grade, Brotman and colleagues (2016) found a statistically significant ParentCorps intervention effect on mental health problems. At 8 years of age, children in the intervention schools had lower levels of mental health problems, compared with children in the control schools.
At the end of second grade, there was a statistically significant intervention effect on academic performance. Although academic performance decreased for both groups from 5 to 8 years of age, children in the intervention schools had higher scores on measures of academic performance, compared with children in the control schools.
Brotman and colleagues (2013) conducted a cluster randomized controlled trial of ParentCorps in two school districts in disadvantaged minority and immigrant-dense New York City neighborhoods. To be included, schools were required to have pre-kindergarten (pre-K) programs (offered 1 year before kindergarten) with at least two classes, and a student population that was mostly black (at least 80 percent) and of low income (at least 70 percent eligible for free lunch). The study aimed to enroll all pre-K students during 4 consecutive years (2005–2008). The only inclusion criteria for children was having an English-speaking caregiver.
Before randomization, schools were matched on size and split into pairs; within each pair, one school was randomly assigned to receive the ParentsCorps intervention, and the other school was the control group. The final sample included 1,050 children in 10 schools, with 561 in the intervention group and 489 in the control group. At baseline, 71.9 percent of the total sample of children were eligible for free lunch (indicating low income). Approximately 90.7 percent were black and 6.2 percent were Latino. Almost half (49.3 percent) were male, and 44.7 percent came from single-parent homes. Over one third (36.4 percent) came from families in which a parent was unemployed, and 46.5 percent came from families where parents had a high school diploma or less. There were no statistically significant differences between the intervention and control groups at baseline on demographic characteristics.
The primary outcome of interest was achievement test scores assessed at the end of kindergarten and developmental trajectories of academic performance from pre-K through kindergarten. The Kaufman Test of Education Achievement (KTEA) Brief Form was administered to measure achievement test scores. Developmental trajectories of academic performance were measured with teacher reports on a global rating of academic problems.
Analyses were conducted on student-level data by using intent-to-treat principles. The intervention effect on achievement test scores was analyzed with a multivariate analysis of variance-type analysis using linear mixed-effects models. To account for potential correlations among outcomes of children, random effects for classes and schools were included in the model. The effect on trajectories of academic performance was estimated using mixed-effects models for longitudinal data. The study authors did not conduct subgroup analyses.
The 2015 study by Dawson-McClure and colleagues used the same dataset as the study by Brotman and colleagues (2013) to examine the impact of ParentCorps on parenting skills and child conduct problems at the end of kindergarten. Of the original study sample (1,050), 92 percent in the intervention group and 93 percent in the control group remained in the study. Most of the parents/caregivers were mothers (88 percent), with an average age of 33.9 years. About two thirds (68 percent) were immigrants, and 85 percent were non-Latino black (including Afro-Caribbean and African American).
The study examined teacher ratings of parent involvement and parent ratings of parenting and conduct problems. Pre-K and kindergarten teachers completed questionnaires at the beginning and end of each school year (four times). Parents were interviewed at the beginning and end of pre-K and at the end of kindergarten (three times). Parenting was assessed by multiple methods across three domains: Positive Behavior Support, Behavior Management, and Involvement in Early Learning. Knowledge of positive behavior support and effective behavior management were measured with the Effective Practices Test (EPT). Positive behavior support was measured with the Positive Reinforcement subscale of the Parenting Practices Interview (PPI). Harsh and inconsistent behavior management was measured with two subscales of the PPI (Harsh and Inconsistent Discipline). Parent report of parent involvement in early learning was based on the Involve Interview and Parent Perceptions of Parent Efficacy. Teacher report of parent involvement was obtained from a 6-item subscale of the Involve Interview. Parents rated child conduct problems during the past 4 weeks on the New York Rating Scale (NYRS).
Analyses used intent-to-treat principles. Standard errors were adjusted to account for repeated assessments and clustering of children within schools. The study authors did not conduct subgroup analyses.
Brotman and colleagues (2016) conducted a 3-year follow up to the original randomized controlled trial discussed in their 2013 article. The original study enrolled children 4 years of age. This study included children at 5, 6, 7, and 8 years of age. Of the original sample (1,050 children), data was available on 792 children at follow up (432 in the intervention group and 369 in the control group). Of the 792, 409 children (51.6 percent) had complete data for all measures at all times. Almost all the children (768) had data for baseline and at least one follow up in teacher rating measures, and 615 had at least one follow up in KTEA scores. There were no statistically significant differences between children with data in second grade and those without data, on demographic characteristics, baseline teacher ratings, or school readiness measures.
The outcomes included teacher ratings of mental health problems and academic performance, and achievement test scores. Teacher ratings of mental health problems were obtained on externalizing scales (e.g., conduct problems, aggression, and hyperactivity) and internalizing scales (e.g., anxiety, depression, and somatization) of the Behavior Assessment System for Children. Ratings were made by teachers at baseline and at the end of each year from pre-K through second grade (five times with four different teachers). Teachers also rated academic performance annually. Reading and math achievement were assessed twice (at the end of kindergarten and second grade) with the KTEA Brief Form.
Intent-to-treat principles were again used in the analyses. Effects were estimated using linear mixed-effects models with all available data. For missing data, multiple imputations were used, assuming data were missing at random. The study authors did not conduct subgroup analyses.
There is no cost information available for this program.
ParentCorps was first piloted in 2000, with 40 families at one Central Harlem public school in New York City. From 2003 through 2008, ParentCorps was rigorously tested in 18 high-poverty schools in Brooklyn, serving approximately 125 families each year. By 2015, ParentCorps was being implemented in 25 pre-K programs in schools and early education centers throughout New York City. By 2018, in partnership with the NYC Department of Education Division of Early Childhood Education and as part of Pre-K for All, more than 50 schools and centers have been implementing ParentCorps and serving nearly 3,000 children and families annually.
For more information about the program, see the ParentCorps website: https://med.nyu.edu/pophealth/divisions/cehd/parentcorps
Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)
These sources were used in the development of the program profile:Study 1
Brotman, Laurie Miller, Spring Dawson-McClure, Esther J. Calzada, Keng-Yen Huang, Dimitra Kamboukos, Joseph J. Plamar, and Eva Petkova. 2013. “Cluster (School) RCT of ParentCorps: Impact on Kindergarten Academic Achievement.” Pediatrics
Dawson-McClure, S., Esther J. Calzada, Keng-Yen Huang, Dimitra Kamboukos, Dana Rhule, Bukky Kolawole, Eva Petkova, and Laurie Miller Brotman. 2015. “A Population-Level Approach to Promoting Healthy Child Development and School Success in Low-Income, Urban Neighborhoods: Impact on Parenting and Child Conduct Problems.” Prevention Science
Brotman, Laurie Miller, Spring Dawson-McClure, Dimitra Kamboukos, Keng-Yen Huang, Esther J. Calzada, Keith Foldfeld, and Eva Petkova. 2016. “Effects of ParentCorps in Prekindergarten on Child Mental Health and Academic Performance: Follow-up of a Randomized Clinical Trial Through 8 Years of Age.” JAMA Pediatrics
These sources were used in the development of the program profile:
Brotman, Laurie Miller, Spring Dawson-McClure, Keng-Yen Huang, Rachelle Theise, Dimitra Kamboukos, Jing Wang, Eva Petkova, and Gbenga Ogedegbe. 2012. “Early Childhood Family Intervention and Long-Term Obesity Prevention Among High-Risk Minority Youth.” Pediatrics
Brotman, Laurie Miller, Esther Calzada, Keng-Yen Huang, Sharon Kingston, Spring Dawson-McClure, Dimitra Kamboukos, Amanda Rosenfelt, Amihai Schwab, and Eva Petkova. 2011. “Promoting Effective Parenting Practices and Preventing Child Behavior Problems in School Among Ethnically Diverse Families from Underserved, Urban Communities.” Child Development
Caldwell, Melissa B., Laurie Miller Brotman, Stephanie I. Coard, Scyatta A. Wallace, Debra J. Stellabotte, and Esther J. Calzada. 2005. “Community Involvement in Adapting and Testing a Prevention Program for Preschoolers Living in Urban Communities: ParentCorps.” Journal of Child and Family Studies
Calzada, Esther J., Melissa B. Caldwell, Laurie Miller Brotman, Elissa J. Brown, Scyatta A. Wallace, Jennifer H. McQuaid, Lisseth Rojas-Flores, and Colleen R. O’Neal. 2005. “Training Community Members to Serve as Paraprofessionals in an Evidence-Based, Prevention Program for Parents of Preschoolers.” Journal of Child and Family Studies