Skip Navigation
Funding Opportunities | Search Funded Research Grants and Contracts

IES Grant

Title: Improving Low-Income Students' Odds of Being "On-Track" and College Ready in Chicago Public Schools: The Respective Roles of Child Self-Regulation and Preschool vs. High School Intervention
Center: NCER Year: 2016
Principal Investigator: Watts, Tyler W. Awardee: Teachers College, Columbia University
Program: Social and Behavioral Context for Academic Learning      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (7/1/2016-6/30/2020) Award Amount: $3,172,999
Type: Efficacy and Replication Award Number: R305A190521

Previous Award Number: R305A160176
Previous Institution: New York University

Co-Principal Investigators: Amanda Roy (University of Illinois-Chicago); Stephanie Jones (Harvard University); Dana McCoy (Harvard University); Cybele Raver (NYU)

Purpose: The purpose of this project is twofold: 1) to evaluate the long-term impact of a preschool self-regulation and school-readiness intervention on later self-regulation skills, and 2) to evaluate the impact of a new mindset intervention to improve self-regulation and, ultimately, college readiness in high school students. The preschool intervention (Chicago School Readiness Project, or CSRP) was aimed at supporting low-income students' chances of success in navigating the preschool to kindergarten transition and showed positive results of increased self-regulation on attention, inhibitory control, and academic skills. Researchers hypothesize that a mindset intervention (Purpose for Learning, or PfL) delivered to these children who are now in high school will further increase students' self-regulation skills, on-track academic performance, and behavioral engagement in school.

Project Activities: The researchers will relocate, re-contact, and consent 10th grade students who were initially in the CSRP as preschoolers. Following a baseline measure of self-regulation, which also serves as the long-term follow-up outcome of the preschool study, the research team will re-randomize the students to receive either the PfL or a health information session. The researchers hypothesize that students who participated in the preschool intervention will show higher levels of self-regulation in 10th grade than those who did not and those students who participate in the additional mindset intervention ("double dose") will exhibit higher levels of self-regulation than single-dose or no-dose participants.

Products: The research team will generate evidence both of the long-term efficacy of the preschool CSRP intervention and the shorter-term efficacy of the PfL mindset intervention to improve self-regulation in low-income, ethnic minority urban high school students. Researchers will provide a cost analysis for interventions and produce policy briefs, peer-reviewed publications, and presentations.

Structured Abstract

Setting: This study will take place in Chicago.

Sample: Approximately 450 tenth grade students will participate in the study. All students in the sample initially participated in the CSRP as preschoolers. Approximately half of the sample (n = 225) was previously randomized to the CSRP treatment condition.

Intervention: The CSRP provided treatment group teachers with 30 hours of training in classroom management strategies, weekly coaching through classroom-based consultation, and stress reduction workshops to limit burnout. Classroom consultants also worked one-on-one with small groups of 3–5 children who exhibited the most challenging behavioral problems. The control group received a less intensive intervention, including a teacher's aide one day a week. At the end of the intervention, observations showed that teachers in the treatment condition were more successful in providing emotionally and behaviorally supportive classroom environments than teachers in the control condition. Further analyses revealed that the intervention led to improvements in children's emotion regulation, executive function, and pre-academic skills (vocabulary, letter-naming, and math skills).

The PfL intervention, which researchers will administer to 10th grade students from the original study, is a 30-minute web-based mindset intervention designed to promote self-regulation as a vehicle for improving academic outcomes and college readiness in high school students. Research personnel will individually administer the intervention on laptop computers. In this session, students will be asked to reflect on and write about the role learning plays in their lives and their goals and values.

Research Design and Methods: Whereas random assignment occurred at the preschool site level for the CSRP, random assignment will occur at the individual level for the PfL study. The researchers will directly assess students' self-regulation (operationalized as executive function and emotion regulation) prior to, immediately after, and six months after the intervention. The researchers will directly assess students' college planning immediately and six months after the intervention. The research team will also collect students' school administrative records from 10th to 12th grade to determine on-track course completion and behavioral engagement (disciplinary and attendance problems).

Control Condition: Students randomly assigned to the control group will receive information focused on the importance of sleep for well-being. Half of the students in the control condition were previously in the treatment condition of the preschool intervention.

Key Measures: Researchers will use the Dot Probe Task, the Behavioral Indicator of Resiliency to Distress task, and the State-Trait Anxiety Index will be used to assess emotion regulation (ER). They will assess inhibitory control dimension of executive function (EF) through two measures: the Color Stroop and the Hearts and Flowers task. The research team will also use the PSRA Assessor Report to score adolescents' ER and EF. To measure college readiness, the researchers will measure core academic skills (e.g., 9th grade GPA, school transcripts), behavioral engagement in school (e.g., teacher-reported BRIEF scores, student absences), and college planning (e.g., frequency and time spent using online college planning tools). Moderator variables include preschool self-regulation, poverty, school quality in high school (using the district report card), and student demographic characteristics.

Data Analytic Strategy: In addition to psychometric and scale property analyses, the research team will use multilevel modeling to test hypotheses about the impacts and moderators of the CSRP and the PfL.


Watts T, Ibrahim D, Khader A, Li C, Gandhi J, Raver C. Exploring the Impacts of an Early Childhood Educational Intervention on Later School Selection. Educational Researcher. 2020;49 (9):667-677. doi:10.3102/0013189X20935060