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Early education study program gets a few tweaks

Students look class Chicago Heights Early Childhood Center which is inside HighlSchool Chicago Heights IL Monday November 13 2012. The

Students look on in class at the Chicago Heights Early Childhood Center which is inside Highland School in Chicago Heights, IL on Monday November 13, 2012. The school is a partnership project between Chicago Heights School District 170 and the University of Chicago. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 4, 2013 6:03AM



Three years into a privately funded collaboration between the University of Chicago and Chicago Heights School District 170, the jury still is out on a program designed to study how educational approaches used in preschool affect future academic performance.

Program administrators knew it would take years to measure results, but they are doing some tweaking along the way.

The first students to attend what was called the Griffin Early Childhood Center for the past two years now are in first grade, and their progress will be charted during end-of-the-year evaluations as they grow into adults. In the future, academics at the University of Chicago and Harvard will write studies about them.

For the foreseeable future, though, the school remains operational and will continue to educate lottery-selected youngsters using state-of-the art educational methods.

But the school is changing as it goes along, starting with its name.

The Griffin Early Childhood Center, named so because of a $10 million grant from the Griffin Foundation that funded operations its first two years, now is the Chicago Heights Early Childhood Center, a name that better reflects the school’s heritage. The Griffin Foundation still funds the program.

“The community has embraced the project,” said Edie Dobrez, the school’s executive director.

School officials also have ushered in a new curriculum in order to meet the conditions of the academic experiment that it is.

When the school initially opened in 2010, half of the students were taught a curriculum that focused on decision-making and reasoning. The other half learned more traditional lessons about letters, sound and vocabulary. Now, the two “strategies” are being combined into one.

“What we’ve done so far is dramatic,” Dobrez said. “We’ve taken on quite a bit of work, and we’ve accomplished quite a bit. We want to build on this because it’s truly exciting.”



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