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  • Parents, Taxpayers Deserve to Know if Preschool, Head Start Programs Work

    Writing in the Carolina Journal, John Hood of the John Locke Foundation takes up the story of the overdue report on the national Head Start evaluation:

    For decades now, both liberal and not-so-liberal politicians in Washington and Raleigh have clung to the plausible and promising notion that spending tax money early on early childhood education can save money in the long run by boosting high-school graduation rates and reducing rates of future crime, joblessness, and welfare dependency.

    The notion is plausible in part because some early laboratory experiments of preschool intervention demonstrated long-term benefits with a few dozen test subjects. And it’s promising because so many other attempts at improving the lives of disadvantaged students – ranging from in-school reforms to various public-assistance programs – have proven to cost more and deliver less than expected.

    The political fascination with preschool intervention began in the 1960s with Head Start, then deepened during the past two decades with state-initiated programs such as North Carolina’s own Smart Start in the 1990s and More at Four in the 2000s.

    Hood explains that politicians in Washington and Raleigh have been quick to expand preschool programs, but less eager to evaluate whether these programs actually benefit students. In North Carolina, Hood argues,

    …the result has been the expenditure of billions of dollars over the past two decades with little evidence of gain. As I’ve noted, the major improvements in North Carolina’s performance on independent reading and math tests predated the statewide implementation of Smart Start and More at Four. After these programs went in effect, the state’s academic performance stalled out.

    As for Head Start, Hood kindly highlights the question that Heritage has been raising about the Congressionally-mandated national evaluation that the Department of Health and Human Services has failed to make public.

    Since Congress has wanted to know whether Head Start provides lasting benefits since the 1990s (and since taxpayers have spent more than $100 billion on the program since the 1965), don’t taxpayers and parents deserve to know whether this program works? Especially since Congress and the Obama administration are preparing to spend another $8 billion on federal preschool programs.

    Federal and state governments are running ballooning budget deficits. It’s high time we start evaluating government programs and determine what’s working and what isn’t.

    Posted in Education [slideshow_deploy]

    9 Responses to Parents, Taxpayers Deserve to Know if Preschool, Head Start Programs Work

    1. Pingback: ANOTHER 8 BILLION DOWN THE DRAIN « fort wayne right Weblog

    2. Dustin Whitmire, Tex says:

      I was a part of a Head Start program here in Texas for a year, and from a layman's standpoint, I thought the program served little more than as a tax payer funded daycare for qualified "parents".

    3. Bobbie Jay says:

      no guaranteed, positive results? NO PROGRAM! NO SPENDING! NO STEALING FROM THOSE WHO RECEIVE NO BENEFIT…THE TAX PAYER!

      IT'S THE PARENTS DUTY TO BRING UP THEIR CHILDREN. PARENTS SHOULD HAVE THE DECENCY TO PAY FOR THEIR OWN CHOICE OF DAYCARE, THAT IS ACCEPTABLE TO THEIR LIFESTYLE.

      PRIVATE DAYCARE CENTERS MEANS MORE JOBS IN THE PRIVATE SECTOR!

      IF OBAMA IS WORKING FOR AMERICA, HE'D GET OUT OF THE PRIVATE SECTOR AND LET THE PRIVATE SECTOR CREATE THEIR OWN JOBS! Build self worth in the PEOPLE/PARENTS RESPONSIBLE!

    4. eJill, Virginia says:

      I think of this exact issue often as I walk past the National Headstart office on my way to work. Thanks for posting.

    5. Monise Seward, Georg says:

      Since when did Obama get credited with funding Head Start? I thought the point of the article/blog was to call to our attention the absence of longitudinal studies on the perceived effectiveness of Head Start/Preschool programs? Some people need to leave their political opinions out of this; I can tell you did not vote for Obama. Can you be any more transparent?

      Anyway, on to the issue at hand: I believe that carefully developed and executed Head Start programs can have positive and lasting effects on children, especially those who typically are trapped in failing public schools/districts. Many families cannot afford the upscale private Head Start programs, which run anywhere from $200-500 a week, depending on your location. Does that mean kids are not deserving of early education opportunites? Absolutely not. I think any educational initiative needs to be research-based and monitored to fix what does not work and replicate what does. Also, results-based reports can justify spending tax payer money.

    6. Wendy Young, LMSW, B says:

      As a taxpayer, I think it’s prudent that we evaluate outcomes on any sort of programming supported by our tax dollars. Not only should outcome evaluations be well constructed, they should also be balanced and give information that paints a full picture, not just a segment of the picture.

      As a child and family therapist, and independent Mental Health consultant to multiple Head Start and Early Head Start programs in the Midwest (Michigan and Wisconsin), I have a much different perspective on these programs, what they really do, and the overall impact they have on children and families.

      Head Start is a far cry from “daycare”. I have been nothing short of impressed with the high quality administrators, teachers and staff that I have been privileged to know through the numerous Head Start programs to which I consult.

      Head Start is a highly regulated program, with stringent guidelines, performance standards and outcome measures that must be demonstrated. Add to this the rigorous Federal Reviews that each Head Start must answer to and it is evident that this program has more than the center manager policing the goings-on in Head Start.

      To get a glimpse at the lofty performance standards, look here: http://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/hslc/Program%20Desig

      The program is comprehensive. I have sat at meeting tables with some of the best and the brightest pediatricians, nutritionists, nurses, education specialists, financial specialists, dental health promoters and others, while planning upcoming trainings, strategies and approaches to improve the lives children and families.

      Head Start is more than educational. It addresses numerous other dimensions that, together, promote and contribute to the optimal development of the child. It provides comprehensive education, health, mental health, nutrition, and parent involvement services to low-income children and their families.

      I am intrigued by the Heritage report that was linked to from this article, which points out that it was proven that “Head Start children outperformed their peers in four out of the six cognitive constructs: pre-reading, pre-writing, vocabulary, and parent reports of students’ literacy skills” when initially tested. BRAVO. This tells us something good DID come from Head Start.

      However, it goes on to say, “They report that the evaluation found that, overall, Head Start participants experienced zero lasting benefits compared to their non-Head Start peers by the end of first grade.” Now this where it truly gets interesting.

      What does this mean, really? Does it mean that Head Start has failed…or does it point to the more likely fact that our public schools are failing? Because that is what I glean from this information.

      If Head Start children have a competitive edge at the beginning of their elementary school year, but lose this by the end of first grade, couldn’t that point to the fact that our public schools are doing nothing to keep the momentum going that was first set forth in Head Start? Could it be that the lack of attention to nutrition, health, mental health, dental care and most of all…family support…is gaping hole that develops after the public schools take off where Head Start left off?

      And what would these kids look like had they not had the benefit of Head Start? How far behind their peers might they be?

      I think those that would like to see Head Start dismantled don’t have a difficult time with funneling money towards early childhood education, per se. Rather, it may be that the problem lies in the fact that all of these funds are being funneled in the direction of disadvantaged, marginalized, and financially impoverished children and families.

      This clearly is a much bigger issue than can be addressed in one post. I just hope I have done some small justice to a program which I see far supersedes ANYTHING I have seen in any other venue.

      And…we haven’t even begun to address, nor try to measure the social-emotional benefits such as navigating peer relationships, resolving conflicts, self-esteem, belief in one’s self, or ability to manage difficult feelings and situations, which can be a MUCH stronger indicator of one’s success in life than how one performs on a math or reading test.

      If any one program can meet these multiple needs of high-risk children and families, Head Start and similar such programs can.

      If you really want the world to become a better, safer and “free” place, support the programs that support disadvantaged, marginalized, and financially impoverished children and families.

      If you think these programs are just a handout, I highly recommend you attend a training on “Bridges Out of Poverty”. Until then, I will remain grateful and hopeful that those that make the decisions to fund the programs such as Head Start “get it”. They really, really “get it”.

      To read more about whether or not Head Start works, see this: http://www.moheadstart.org/For%20Legislators.aspx

    7. Bobbie Jay says:

      The parents that benefit from "head start" need to be the ones funding it! ACCOUNTABLE to the expenses of the children they brought into the world..

      My older child had DAYCARE. A law abiding, successful person in the world. My youngest, went to "head start." Problems in school. POOR ATTITUDE. Doesn't take on personal responsibilities or accountabilities.

      Currently a senior,, will get a diploma but isn't allowed to walk with the graduating class. NO DIFFERENCE!, WE''RE TOLD!

      THEN WHY ISN'T MY CHILD GIVEN THE PRIVILEGE OF WALKING WITH THE REST OF THE CLASS? BECAUSE THERE IS A DIFFERENCE! government schools FAILED MY CHILD! Labeled by government code!

    8. Tony van Dam says:

      This year in our Head Start program we served 2,000 low-income children and 230 children with disabilities. Around 70 of those children came in with disabilites and the 160 others were identified through our screening process. Parents have come to us and said that, "we took their 3 or 4 year-old child into our Head Start program when no other child-care wanted them". Some children were kicked out of private child-care for simple behavior challenges. Our mission is to serve the neediest of the needy so that all children get an opportunity to reach their full potential. If we do not work to lift up all our American children then what is America's future? Do we leave it just to private child-care to pick and choose the kids they want or do we invest in our future and give every child an opportunity to be a productive adult? And those parents who have Head Start can afford to go to work and get a paycheck instead of going on welfare and taking our taxpayer money.

    9. Phil, South Carolina says:

      Tony, I applaud your Head Start program, and agree that our children our are future. But I believe that most of the children in my community who go to head start are from families who are several, and I mean several, other social programs. It really comes down to economics, Do you have a government run pre-school program paid for by all the people or do you have a government that puts the money instead into private "daycare/education" programs. Wendy, to your book, I will simply write a few words, is it a right that children need these programs to be sucessful or could the money go into the public schools to teach them the skills so their isn't a break down after entering 1st grade. Unfornately, I think we have a difficult cultural dilemna here. It seems that in the minority cultures it is ok to have children to support themselves in a single parent household (sometimes the two parents in these homes are grandma and mom), where as in the some of these homes they don't have children to make money and receive hand out but are in a monogamous relationship where two parents (father and mother) are in the home. But it is not the governments responsibility to change cultures, nor to raise children, maybe education and produce productive citizens, but not RAISE them because those that brought them into the world don't want the responsibility.

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