Forsyth County School Readiness Project Aims to
Increase 4-Year-Olds’ Readiness to Succeed in School

Family Services has launched a new research-based project to improve low-income, pre-school-aged children’s prospects of success in school.

Funded by a grant from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, the Forsyth County School Readiness Project (FCSRP) is intended to improve young children’s emotional and behavioral development by enhancing teachers’ classroom management skills and by providing mental health services when needed. The demographics of children who will participate in the project reflect those of Family Services’ overall Head Start enrollment (2013–14), of which

  • 79% represented families that had incomes below 100% of the federal poverty level,
  • 71% were from single parent families,
  • 15% were eligible for Head Start due to homelessness (7%) or receipt of SSI or TANF public assistance (8%) and
  • 10% of the children had a learning or developmental disability.

FCSRP will involve seven classrooms and serve 126 four-year-old children who are enrolled in Family Services’ Head Start program. Teachers will receive training to constructively manage a child’s disruptive behavior, and a team of mental health consultants will provide supportive coaching. Teachers will also learn stress reduction techniques as part of the project.

The FCSRP is modeled after the Chicago School Readiness Project (CSRP), a federally-funded, randomized controlled trial intervention that was conducted by Dr. Raver. The CSRP was found to promote improvements in vocabulary, letter naming and math. Subsequent studies determined that these gains persisted in math and reading through the second grade.

“The Forsyth County School Readiness Project addresses the mental health problems of preschool children, an issue that is beginning only now to receive the attention it deserves,” said Bob Feikema, president and CEO of Family Services. “We are pleased to partner with Dr. Cybele Raver of New York University’s (NYU) Neuroscience and Education Lab in replicating research-based methods that have been effective in helping teachers improve children’s capacity for self-regulation. Self-regulation is the key to the social and emotional development that is necessary for children to succeed in school and later life.”

“We believe this collaborative partnership, connecting our mental health staff and pre-school teachers, will foster classroom management techniques that reduce teacher stress and improve children’s emotional and behavioral responses,” said Director of the Family Solutions Division Rebecca Nagaishi, who is supervising the implementation of the project. “It was exciting to see the enthusiasm of our mental health and teaching staff during the first day of Incredible Years Classroom Management Training in mid-August,” she added.

Family Services will assess children’s developmental progress over the year while researchers from NYU conduct a randomized controlled trial in order to learn the impact of the project on children’s school readiness. A final report will be prepared following rigorous evaluation of the project.