• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Long Overdue Head Start Evaluation Shows No Lasting Benefit for Children

    After some prodding, yesterday the Obama administration released the long-overdue first grade evaluation of the federal Head Start program. As expected, the results show that the $7 billion per year program provides little benefit to children – and great expense to taxpayers.

    The evaluation, which was mandated by Congress during the 1998 reauthorization of the program, found little impact on student well-being. After collecting data on more than 5,000 three and four-year-old children randomly assigned to either a Head Start or a non Head Start control group, the Department of Health and Human Services found “few sustained benefits”. From the report:

    In sum, this report finds that providing access to Head Start has benefits for both 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds in the cognitive, health, and parenting domains, and for 3-year-olds in the social-emotional domain. However, the benefits of access to Head Start at age four are largely absent by 1st grade for the program population as a whole. For 3-year-olds, there are few sustained benefits, although access to the program may lead to improved parent-child relationships through 1st grade…

    While these results are uninspiring, they become even less impressive when more closely examined. Heritage’s David Muhlhausen calls into question the less-than-rigorous statistical methods employed by HHS:

    In some cases, HHS reports statistically significant impacts based on a standard of statistical significance is p<0.10 which is not the norm for most social scientists. The 0.05 level is the norm. With a sample of 4,667 children, there is no reason to use the easier 0.10 level. The larger your sample size the easier it is to find statistically significant findings, so using 0.10 as the standard for statistical significance is unwarranted with such a large sample size… For example, if they used the standard level of significance for the 1st grade year language and literacy measures, then the study would report no statistically measurable impact on all eleven measures. Instead, the lower standard used by HHS allows for them to report that Head Start had at least one positive impact on raised language and literacy.

    In essence, had HHS not used a less-rigorous method of evaluating Head Start, the report would have shown no impact on the language and literacy outcomes for the four-year-old cohort.

    Taxpayers have been on the hook for more than $100 billion for the Head Start program since 1965. This federal evaluation, which effectively shows no lasting impact on children after first grade and no difference between those children who attended Head Start and those who did not, should call into question the merits of increasing funding for the program, which the Obama administration recently did as part of the so-called “stimulus” bill.

    Andrew Coulson over at Cato points to the hypocrisy of continuing to bolster funding an unquestionably ineffective program, while ending one of the most effective education programs ever created:

    There are other government education programs whose effects actually grow substantially over time, and that are comparatively economical. Consider the federal DC voucher program…by their third year in private schools, the evidence was clear that voucher-receiving students were reading more than two grade levels above a randomized control group that stayed in public schools… But Congress, and particularly Democrats, have defunded the DC voucher program while raising spending on Head Start. President Obama is at the forefront of this travesty.

    Head Start is the federal government’s largest early education program. For more than 40 years, this pet project has been a sinkhole for taxpayer dollars and an ineffective education program for children. As Congress considers expanding the federal government’s role in early childhood education, the new Head Start evaluation should clearly signal to policymakers the necessity of reforming existing programs – not furthering ineffective models such as Head Start.

    Posted in Education [slideshow_deploy]

    75 Responses to Long Overdue Head Start Evaluation Shows No Lasting Benefit for Children

    1. Miton Stanley, Mud C says:

      At least twenty-five years ago (when I began undergraduate study in education) research already showed conclusively that Head Start provided no learning benefits by the time children reached third or fourth grade. Somehow the program has continued to hang on despite its proven lack of long-term benefit (to children at least).

      • George Nunez says:

        this is good information! im doing a project for my civics class on which federal program should be dropped to increase the federal income.

      • Jodie says:

        The true purpose of this program IS to give a child in poverty access to crayons, books, curriculum, and socialization that they would otherwise not have the opportunity to experience. Are there studies that show the effects of kindergarten in a child in the 3rd grade? People are missing the point of this program! This program works, it works based on what it is intended to accomplish. Parents leave the program with knowledge in health, nutrition, self-esteem, child development, advocacy, and decion making skills.

    2. James Brown, Florid says:

      This is OLD news. Head Start has taken billions and has never delivered anything for the money.

      All previous evaluations said basically the same thing. Whatever gains might have been achieved at 3 or 4, no longer exist by the time the child hits 3rd grade.

      • Danielle says:

        However, if you read the report you find that there is strong evidence that WHILE enrolled in Head Start programs students and their families benefit. Children leave the program with improved behavior and cognitive skills. The fact that these effects begin to fade down the road highlights issues inherent in the next step of their educational journey– the elementary schools throughout the US that are riddled with their own issues, many of which are due to a lack of proper funding. These findings only indicate that funding for these programs (and yes, improvements– but many of which need more $$$ to implement) must continue and INCREASE if anything…

    3. Tailgunner says:

      Gee – imagine that! A government program that doesn't work and is a huge waste of taxpayer dollars! Whoda thunk it!

    4. Bruce Haughey, Redwo says:

      Once again this shows where the hearts of democrat politicians are. Continue to fund a program that does nothing for the people they represent and scrap the program that is shown by all research to benefit the people.

      • Gues says:

        I just want to say headstart is a excellent, program. It gives children opportunities to be successful. A survey was done and given to headstart parents and they all had something good to say about headstart

        • GOP says:

          Are you serious? Do you really take importance from a survey of parents who's children are in Head Start? The above research shows that HS does not give children "opportunities to be successful." It is a drain on the taxpayer and the economy.

    5. Jay says:

      So we've dropped $100 billion for basically a babysitting service, correct?

    6. Trey, Nashville says:

      I hope we can now accept that teachers do not and cannot have the same impact as parents. Or in the case of Head Start, moms. Most of the kids in Head Start have little contact with their dad. No government program can save children from incompetent parents.

      Sorry, but them's the facts.

      So now how about the government starts promoting two parent families as the answer?

      Trey

    7. Lily says:

      LIke James Brown (above), I have been aware that there were no long term beneftis to Head Start. Why do we keep wasting hard earned money on this program?

    8. Donald, Arlington says:

      Au contraire, Bruce. Head Start does a great deal for the Friends of Democrats. Think of all the people who are employed by HS dollars — the bus drivers, janitors, 'teachers', aides, administrators, grant writers, etc. I have not seen any statistics on this, but a dime will get you a dollar that most of these people are unionized especially in the Blue cities controlled by Democratic/Black machines.

      This is the same reason we will never get true welfare reform — the Ds are not going to see several hundred thousand unionized 'social workers' unemployed.

      Always remember, 'Cui bono?'

    9. Donald, Arlington says:

      This is indeed old news. A study that had similar results was done around 1990 and Congress responded by -doubling- the Head Start budget under Clinton.

      Now the push is on for pre-pre-Kindergarten in many states, which, as a previous poster pointed out, is just a taxpayer-funded babysitting service so Yuppie moms won't feel so guilty about abandoning the upbringing of their children to strangers.

    10. Kathy, AZ says:

      About 25 years ago, when stationed in the military in Tucson, I wanted to give my own child a Head Start. Even knowing we didn't qualify for the program, I naively thought that since we were taxpayers, we could at least have access to the materials that the program used. My thinking was that if the program was so good for the disadvantaged, what might they do for those of that paid for it.

      Well, imagine my surprise, when I was yelled at for wanting access to materials that I didn't qualify for (I even offered to pay for the printed materials). It was a "How dare I think I should see what taxpayers were paying for?"

    11. Julie Niles Petersen says:

      I have not read the research on Head Start, but I can speak about personal experience. I am the youngest of seven children and was raised by a single parent. Out of the seven of us, only the last two attended Head Start. (The other five did not attend any kind of preschool).

      Did it work? Well, we are the only two who went on to get a college degree (a masters for me). I attribute much of this to Head Start and the fact that my mom took the two of us to the library every Saturday. (I believe she learned the importance of this from the Head Start teachers).

      I am very thankful we had the opportunity to attend Head Start and I cannot imagine that we are the only success stories.

      • As a Head Start teacher, I say thank you! Research really does make a difference. If you have done your research or have obtained your degree in Early Childhood Education/Studies, you know that curriculum programs who focus on 3-8 year-olds better prepare them for a more successful educational experience.

      • Guest says:

        The point is not to look for the rare successes to justify the expense – if 5% of the students are positively impacted, the trade off is that 95% of the money is wasted. I'm sorry if that sounds heartless, but a program in which $100 is spent to provide $5 in benefits, that's a waste – and shame on your mom for not figuring out on her own how important the library could have been to your five older siblings – and shame on your mom for having seven children when she could barely take care of herself – oh, and there is a college degree (history, economics, engineering) and there is a college degree (women's studies, black studies, criminal justice) – kudos to you if you are among the first group – you certainly climbed an awfully tall mountain!

        • Kate says:

          What a piggish comment regarding types of degrees. Shocking and piggish and ignorant.

        • Hilary says:

          history was just ranked on of the most useless majors by Georgetown University… and not sure what's wrong with a degree in Criminal Justice.

    12. Pingback: Instapundit » Blog Archive » HEADSTART: ANOTHER GOVERNMENT PROGRAM THAT DOESN’T WORK? “The evaluation, which was mandated by Co…

    13. Rick, People's says:

      Now why would the DNC want anyone who could fend for himself? Nope, the only way it, the DNC, maintains power is to have a continuing supply of people who need Big Government.So, from that POV Head Start has been a resounding success.

    14. Rodney says:

      The "another government program that doesn't work" meme doesn't really fit. Headstart does exactly what it is supposed to do, provide daycare. I would not have a problem with advoctes of Headstart admitting this and continuing the program, with significant means testing. As a conservative you have to choose between a parent staying home and on welfare or using headstart and getting a job I prefer the later. Of course I'm purposely making my example simplistic.

    15. KJude says:

      It's really an childcare program, no?

    16. Pingback: Daily scoreboard « Don Surber

    17. JMG says:

      "As a conservative you have to choose between a parent staying home and on welfare or using headstart and getting a job I prefer the later."

      As a conservative, I prefer for the mother to stay home and raise her children while the father works to provide for his family.

      Head Start is a half-day program. Working from 9:30-11:30am 5 days a week wouldn't provide much in the way of income and there aren't a lot of places with positions like that.

      The government has no business raising our children.

      • Head Start devotee says:

        Lots of people here are living back in the 1950s – what society are you living in that can afford an Ozzy & Harriet lifestyle? People (including dads) are out of work. Sure, that era would be great – but it doesn't exist anymore. Come into the 21st century and take a hard look at reality. Head Start works, it gives kids a safe place to learn, to eat one or two regular meals, to learn how to socialize appropriately ("no guns in school", how to share, colors, numbers, letters, spelling, books – an actual curriculum is used), safety lessons, and much more. We CARE about the kids in Head Start. It would be lovely if Mom could stay home and homeschool the kids while Dad works to provide for the family – and some families can do that. But the majority cannot, and many families have single parents, imprisoned parents, parents on drugs, absentee parents, abusive parents, and situations beyond describing, custody battles, etc. I sub in Head Start and other classes and I've seen many situations. The "easy answers" here are simplistic and ill-informed, except for the ones who have actually experienced Head Start and know the good it can do for the kids AND the families. Don't judge what you don't know – I know many of these families, and it's not what you think. The early years (0-5) are the most important in a person's life – it sets the stage for later success, or the possibility of crime, drugs, unemployment, substance abuse, poverty, homelessness, etc. Biggest determining factor is lack of access to education and resources. The 1950s are gone, and they are not coming back, no matter how much you rant about a utopian society that never was. Deal with what IS, and can you really look into a preschooler's eyes coming from a rough background and turn that kid away? I can't. I won't.

      • Anon says:

        You realize the divorce rate is too high to realistically expect that to ever happen, right? There's nothing any government could do about the fact people are breaking up after having kids. Maybe if people weren't so naive this wouldn't be a problem, but it's probably not going to change.

        Considering that each generation is going to have some single moms, this Head Start would in fact be better than welfare for both the kid and the mom, if the mom could work and bring in a decent income to support the child.

        Considering that it shows short term benefits that last up to 1st grade, Head Start is accomplishing it's goal the best that any preschool or daycare could realistically expect.

        There is only so much one can teach a 3 or 4 year old, and kids going to elementary school all those years inevitably reach a point where they have all exceeded what they learned in preschool and are all learning new things at the same time.

      • Alicia says:

        Head start is not only a half day program. It just depends on your location. Where I teach, it is a full day from 8:30 to 2:45.

    18. Pingback: The Greenroom » Forum Archive » Head Start and the party of science

    19. Chorkie, Columbia, S says:

      You cannot treat the child without treating the family, too. Sending kids to Head Start was/is a good safe environment for children who otherwise were at risk of difficulties at home. But, if you only treat the child, you do not have the child in a learning environment for his entire day.

    20. Warren,Janie / Brade says:

      After college graduation in 1969 my first job was working for Head Start. It was one of the hardest jobs I have ever had. I have been an ele. teacher now for 35 years. The first years of childhood are the most important for language building. Head Start is just a little late for that foundation but it couldn't hurt the children. Does Head Start use state certified teachers? When I worked for Head Start the talk was that parents were going to be heired to do the teaching. I didn'tkeep up with the program. I thought that sounded like a bad idea.

      • FlameCCT says:

        No, Headstart does not use state certified teachers however they are instituting a standard which requires a minimum of a CDA for Teacher Assistants and Bachelors in ECD for Teachers by 2013.

        • Boots1 says:

          The Head Start program for which I work uses all state certified teachers and requires CDA for teachers' assistants. We also have a home based program for families that cannot provide transportation to get their children to the classroom sites. These families are visited once a week by state certified teachers who help the parents realize that they are, in fact, their child's first and most important teacher. We provide information for them to access services and help them to set and plan for family goals. The classrooms encourage parental involvement and have parent/child activity time every week. And, by the way, our salaries are such that some of our teachers' children qualify for Head Start themselves and many work another job. Why? Because we see the difference we can make by bringing a new view of the world and its possibilities, by encouraging them to dream and reach for more. Are we successful with every family? Of course not. But I'm working at home on activities for tomorrow's home visits, unpaid time, because what I do each day matters and I know it, no matter what the research seems to say.

        • Frances says:

          I am from Texas and I have worked for Head Start for 3 years now, I am a certfied teacher and yes Head Start do hire certified teachers. Most often we have heard lots of negative things about Head Start, but I can tell you that I have 15 students and out of those 15 students 14 of them are able to go to kindergarten reading writing and have really been prepared for kindergarten. We follow the Texas prek guidelines and we areTexas School Ready Certified. Head Start is a wonderful program.

    21. Pingback: Children’s Literacy and Reading News Roundup – 18 January | Scrub-a-Dub-Tub, a Reading Tub Blog

    22. Mary Damer, Columbus says:

      For years, many Head Start programs have prohibited the teaching of skills since learning is expected to naturally evolve from play experiences. Reinforcement as well as punishment has been banned and teachers told specifically to do neither. I observed chaotic Head Start programs where teachers weren't allowed to let everyone who walked quietly to the gym rather than run into other rooms on the way there have a reinforcing jump on the mini trampoline. No reinforcement for good behavior of any kind — it was believed it would stop the child's internal motivation from developing.

      I observed when kids were hitting each other on the head and throwing blocks but quiet time out chairs weren't allowed. Instead staff were to have wee chats with the disruptive child in order to convince him to make a better choice next time. How did you get the teacher's attention in those classes — you acted out and got a wee chat. I told the Head Start Directors I could no longer do behavior consultation because the tools needed to create a calm, orderly, safe environment were prohibited by the Head Start philosophy.

      A few years later, I watched a Head Start director walk into a neighborhood school where we had significantly raised reading achievement despite the poverty of the students in a neighborhood where drugs were sold in the house across the street from the school. "We want to partner with the schools to help the students," said the Head Start director. The excited principal who knew her kindergarten teachers struggled all year with incoming students who knew no letter names or sounds and still spoke in three and four word sentences, said that she'd love to. She would volunteer her teaching staff to train the Head Start teachers to do two or three five-minute sessions each day so that the students would learn to blend sounds into words, say the first sound in a word they heard and learn at least 7 or 8 letter sounds. The Head Start teachers could observe in the kindergarten before the school staff went to train them.

      "Oh no," said the Head Start director. "We are not allowed to teach skills. Isn't there some kind of play or social things that we can do instead?" The dismayed principal asked if just a 5-minute practice session after the children had played would work out and when she found out that there was no way the Head Start would do that, she shrugged her shoulders and turned away. "I guess we'll have to continue making up for what you won't teach our kids." I felt like crying and thought of successful preschool research projects like Project Follow-Through and the Abecedarian Preschool Program Model where student performance was impacted positively years later, but which early childhood educators continue to ignore.

      • Jodie says:

        Are you kidding me!!! This may be what YOU observed in one program, but is not the norm! Head start disciplines by using time outs. It does NOT punish! Positive redirection is also used, as well as, teaching problem solving skills. This is the norm in Head Start. I have observed about 22 programs in my state and this is what I have seen. Teachers are required to have a Bachelors in early Childhood development! This program you speak of should be reported to ACF, they would not allow this program to continue to exist at the deplorable level you indicate it operates!!! People should read the Federale Performance Standards and make an attempt to understand this program before criticizing!!!!!

    23. Pingback: Roundup of Reading and Literacy News, January 18 | BOOK(re)MARKS

    24. Head Staart Associat says:

      Easy to report when you're not actually working with the children and families you write about. Overall findings are all well and good but helping a child make it through the day,(despite seroius challenges) by providing a hot meal, preventitive health care, friends, mentors, a consistent schedule/dependability/stability,and a creative & safe place to just be a child… That is the value that has not been added to the equation.

    25. Pingback: Media Ignores Federal Report that Undercuts Obama Administration Initiative | The Foundry: Conservative Policy News.

    26. Pingback: Head Start just another government perpetrated taxpayer scam « Ramparts 360

    27. Pingback: Media Ignores Federal Report that Undercuts Obama Administration Initiative | Conservative Principles Now

    28. Jolene Wright Bloomi says:

      I have been a Head Start teacher for over 35 years. I have worked with it on the East Coast, West Coast and the middle of the country. These families that have benefited from Head Start. The work that the teachers, nurses, family services people and support staff at these programs have taught people, given them the encouragement they needed to get a job, their GED, go to school and some even graduate from college. It has found illness both physical and mental early in children so they got the needed help. Public schools do not offer these services to families. Sometimes many of these families just needed someone to help them, tell them where to go, or how to go about getting what they needed. Head Start provides these services. Those politicians that want to stop spending funds for Head Start, instead of sitting high and looking low, go into those schools, talk to those parents, see those children. Find out how many single parents got help through Head Start. What happened to the Follow Through Program that followed these families into upper grades? Public schools are a dumping ground for our children, especially the poor. Help our children.!!

      • FlameCCT says:

        The overall problem is that the assistance for the children can only be accomplished and continued if the parent takes action. Head Start does not allow agencies to hold parent's accountable for even simple issues. Although many agencies do find ways to reach parents, primarily by requirements needed for the child to remain in the care facility (i.e. immunizations, etc.) This is why most of the children regress to their peers once they have left EHS/HS and entered public schools.

        Parents are the issue, not the ability of the child. I'm sorry however until public schools can require parent involvement then you will always have an issue with this demographic.

    29. Jolene Wright Bloomi says:

      By the way, yes, I do have a college degree. The programs that I worked in provided half day and full day programs to help working families. Teachers were well trained and many had (even back in the 70's) degrees. Now teachers and assistants must have a degree or some college. Wonder how many of those that commented are from the burbs?

    30. V,NC says:

      My siblings and I went to Head Start while both my parents worked. It was 5 of us so if their was no Head Start I'm sure my parents wouldn't have been able to afford Day Care and my Mother wouldn't have been able to work. Today, a lot of the preschool age children in my hometown go to Head Start. They live in single parent households and probably wouldn't be able to attend preschool if there was no HeadStart and their Mother would probably be on welfare. I would rather support Head Start than welfare.

      My nephew who a doctor said would never be able to talk, read, or write, went to Head Start. In Head Start he started talking and doing things that children his age were doing. Thoroughout his elementary, junior high, and high school years he did well with the help of his parents and good teachers. He is now in college. It probably wasn't the class room instruction but the socializing and playing with other 3 & 4 year old children in Head Start that made the difference.

    31. Ellen Deckard-Bloomi says:

      I'm sorry, but where in the impact study did you read that Head Start provides "little benefit to children?" I've included the website where you can read the study because, obviously, you have not. I do agree with your policy staement "we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site." Thank You.

      The study shows that providing access to Head Start led to improvements in the quality of the early childhood settings and programs children experienced. On nearly every measure of quality traditionally used in early childhood research, the Head Start group had more positive experiences than those in the control group.

      http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/opre/hs/impact_st

      Confirmatory Impact Findings

      ? Providing access to Head Start has a positive impact on children’s preschool experiences. There are statistically significant differences between the Head Start group and the control group on every measure of children’s preschool experiences measured in this study.

      ? Access to Head Start has positive impacts on several aspects of children’s school readiness during their time in the program.

      o For the 4-year-old group, benefits at the end of the Head Start year were concentrated in language and literacy elements of the cognitive domain, including impacts on vocabulary (PPVT), letter-word identification, spelling, pre-academic skills, color identification, letter naming, and parent-reported emergent literacy. There was also an impact on access to dental care in the health domain.

      o For the 3-year-old group, benefits were found in all four domains examined at the end of the Head Start and age 4 years, including impacts on vocabulary (PPVT), letter-word identification, pre-academic skills, letter naming, elision (phonological processing), parent-reported emergent literacy, McCarthy Draw-a-Design (perceptual motor skills and pre-writing), applied problems (math), hyperactive behavior, withdrawn behavior, dental care, health status, parent spanking, parent reading to child, and family cultural enrichment activities.

      Head Start group children did significantly better on the PPVT (a vocabulary measure) for 4-year-olds and on the Woodcock-Johnson III test of Oral Comprehension for the 3-year-olds.

      o Social-Emotional Outcomes. By the end of 1st grade, there was some evidence that the 3-year-old cohort had closer and more positive relationships with their parents. These impacts were preceded by other social-emotional impacts (improvements in behavior-hyperactive behavior and total problem behavior, and social skills and positive approaches to learning) in the earlier years.

      Selected subgroups of children showed patterns of favorable impacts, including favorable impacts through 1st grade in the cognitive, social-emotional, or health domains.

      o Among the 4-year-old cohort, these subgroups include children of parents with mild depressive symptoms, children who were Dual Language Learners, and children with lower cognitive skills. Additionally, Black children experienced favorable impacts in the social-emotional domain at the end of kindergarten.

      4-Year-Old Cohort

      ? At the end of the Head Start year, there was strong evidence that the Head Start group demonstrated better skills on the following six child outcomes related to children’s language and literacy development: (1) Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT) (vocabulary); (2) Woodcock-Johnson III (WJ III) Letter-Word Identification; (3) WJ III Spelling; (4) WJ III Pre-Academic Skills; (5) Color Identification; and (6) Letter Naming.

      ? Parents of children in the Head Start group reported that their children had more emerging literacy skills at the end of Head Start than did parents of children in the control group. (This measure was not collected when the children were in school.)

      At the end of 1st grade, there is suggestive evidence of a positive impact of access to Head Start on PPVT (vocabulary) scores.

      Year-Old Cohort

      ? At the end of their Head Start year, there was strong evidence that the Head Start group demonstrated better skills on the following five child outcomes related to children’s language and literacy development: (1) PPVT (vocabulary), (2) WJ III Letter-Word, (3) Preschool Comprehensive Test of Phonological and Print Processing (CTOPPP) Elision, (4) Letter Naming, and (5) WJ III Pre-Academic Skills. There was also a statistically significant impact on the measure of children’s pre-writing skills. Children in the Head Start group were found to have more advanced math skills than their counterparts at the end of the Head Start year on the WJ III test of Applied Problems.

      ? Favorable impacts of Head Start were also found on parental reports of children’s emergent literacy skills at the end of the Head Start year.

      In the Head Start year, there were several impacts on parenting practices, and most were supported by strong evidence:

      o Parents of children in the Head Start group were less likely to have spanked their children than parents in the control group (a difference of seven percentage points).

      o Parents of children in the Head Start group were also more likely to have read to their child in the last week than parents in the control group.

      o Parents of children in the Head Start group involved their child in cultural enrichment activities more than parents of children in the control group.

      12 U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2000). America’s Kindergartners. Washington, DC:Children with special needs benefited from Head Start in the math and social-emotional areas at the end of the 1st grade. As a result of Head Start, special needs children showed a reduction in inattention/hyperactivity, in problems with structured learning, and in conflict with teachers, as well as an increase in positive teacher relationships.

      ? Children of parents with no depressive symptoms experienced sustained benefits of Head Start in the cognitive, social-emotional, and parenting domains through the end of 1st grade. In the cognitive domain, children of parents with no reported depressive symptoms benefited from Head Start on many direct assessments of language, literacy, and math skills in all years, and especially at the end of 1st grade.

      ? Children from high-risk households showed sustained favorable cognitive impacts through the end of 1st grade. Children from high-risk households experienced benefits in five direct assessments of academic skills at the end of 1st grade.

      ? Children in non-urban settings showed sustained cognitive benefits from Head Start through the end of 1st grade and some benefits in the social-emotional domain during the Head Start years. Children in non-urban settings demonstrated favorable cognitive impacts at the end of their Head Start year on three measures of language and literacy and one pre-writing measure. Additionally, favorable math impacts were demonstrated at the end of the age 4 year and favorable spelling impacts at the end of kindergarten. At the end of 1st grade, there were favorable impacts on six language and literacy measures and one math measure.

      ? There were also several groups with favorable impacts in the earlier years of follo

    32. Ellen Deckard-Bloomi says:

      I'm sorry, but where in the impact study did you read that Head Start provides "little benefit to children?" I've included the website where you can read the study because, obviously, you have not. I do agree with your policy staement "we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site." Thank You.

      The study shows that providing access to Head Start led to improvements in the quality of the early childhood settings and programs children experienced. On nearly every measure of quality traditionally used in early childhood research, the Head Start group had more positive experiences than those in the control group.

      http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/opre/hs/impact_st

    33. T. Nooney, Denver CO says:

      "an unquestionably ineffective program"

      Wow, that's quite a statement for someone who is using one study to justify their opinion. Head Start and Early Head Start do wonderful things for not only disadvantaged children but their families as well. Early Head Start provides pregnancy programs, early education, and health services. If you are interested in closing the achievement gap, I suggest you start studying early childhood education and the long-term effects it provides, a huge amount of learning occurs before the age of 5. Putting children in Kindergarten with no early education puts them at a disadvantage, especially children with disabilities and those who are learning English as a second language. We need to strengthen Head Start programs with higher standards and better teachers, and as a society need to recognize early childhood education as a profession and not daycare. Here is a link to a study that finds the cost of Head Start programs are probably worth the long term benefits:

      http://ideas.repec.org/p/nbr/nberwo/12973.html

      Also, this study follows children to 1st grade. How about long term effects?Students that go through HS are less likely than their peers to commit crimes and more likely to graduate high school and pursue a higher education.

      If anyone is truly interested in the effects of Early Head Start and Head Start then please do some research on your own on eric.ed.gov and read the entire study done by the Department of Health and Human Services.

    34. Pingback: Funding an education failure « Try 2 Focus

    35. Tas, North Carolina says:

      I don't know if anyone has ever seen the paper trail involved in this program, but often times there are so many forms to be filled out, teachers don't get a lot of time actually teaching the children. I will add that most teachers working for head start programs have to obtain a level of certification similar to one that can teach for a program such as Teach for America, so I'm thinking, maybe if teachers in head start didn't have to write everything down from a new scratch on a child to if a child has eaten lunch or not, maybe they would actually have more time to teach. 5 hours of paperwork in a day is just a bit excessive, just sayin!!

    36. Ben Dover, OK says:

      Why would you believe any findings from the Obama administration? I believe that if you actually contacted the parents whose children have been through this program you would find that there are tangible benefits to be had. It is easy to criticize something if you have never tried or or had actual experience with it. And yes, the teachers do have to be certified and they are pushing 2 and 4 year degrees as minimum requirements for teachers now.

    37. Pingback: It’s For The Children. Really, This Time. « It's Only Words

    38. Texas says:

      You all need to look more into the facts. Head Start is not only a childcare program. They also do home visits and talk to the parents about the child. They help the parents find more resources and help them get back on their feet. I am a Social Work intern and on my first day I saw Head Start help someone get out of an abusive relationship, showed her Godtell, helped her get wic for her kids, helped her get foodstamps, and get back on her feet.

    39. Michelle says:

      I think Head Start is a good program. It provides children a safe place to come to, with well balanced meals. It also requires teachers to submit a daily check( check the child face, arm, legs, ect.) which can reduce the number of child abuse in America. It's not a perfect program but the good outweighs the bad.

    40. Pingback: Idaho Pre-K Would Be as Effective as Head Start

    41. Debbie Lancaster, Ga says:

      THE "QUOTE" from the web article:

      "In sum, this report finds that providing access to Head Start has benefits for both 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds in the cognitive, health, and parenting domains, and for 3-year-olds in the social-emotional domain. However, the benefits of access to Head Start at age four are largely absent by 1st grade for the program population as a whole. For 3-year-olds, there are few sustained benefits, although access to the program may lead to improved parent-child relationships through 1st grade…"

      MY RESPONSE:

      Does anyone believe that not improving parent-child relationships through first grade is a not a lasting sustained benefit to not only our children,;moreover, the world inparticualr? I mean C'mon, one does not have to be the President of the United States to understand that a lasting, happy healthy relationship between child and parent is the foundation of a happy healthier country. A early ongoing communication of parent-child statas is indeed something that every child needs in his/her life. Afterall a parent is a child's first teacher. If a child does not learn to have a good relationship with mum or dad, how will he or she be able to trust those put in charge around him/her in the future as helping her/him to succeed. I cannot believe that taxpayers wasted good, hard, earned, American dollars investing into a study to tell the American people what they already know—one needs a good relationship with his/her child from the beginning in order for that child to grow and develop into a healthy productive member of socioty—Now that being said…allow me to introduce the second part of my argument against a apparent attack of sabtoge on 3 and 4 year olds…How does speaking out AGAINST head start help the minority's and poverty stricken children of America? You know, that great melting pot of diversity that every child needs to know about before ending school so that little nusicances such as predjudge and bigotry can begin to become something of the past? Oh yea; that's right it's up to the parents to teach his/her own, good thing head start incorporates things like culture and inclusion into thier daily curriclum…

      I can not believe that I was subjected to such "cave-man" hog-wash by reading this or anyone else for that matter…May God Bless our Eyes and our Minds…

    42. Bobbi harrison Orego says:

      Nonsense….your statements are unfounded and stupid. No doubt your some religious fanatic who prefers to watch families suffer so you can feel good about yourself. Unbelievable,,,,,,,you will one day answer for your thoughts and beliefs.

    43. Bobbi harrison Orego says:

      Head Start is a benefit to families living in poverty and it's effective at givng children a head start in life. Their are several past head start children who can testify the benefit of head start.

    44. Diane, AZ says:

      I am a teacher at Head Start. I find this study questionable. Are they looking at the services and teaching strategies that may not be present from Kindergarten to first grade to see if those are the causes for the Head Start children losing the benefits of HS? If Kindergarten teachers are teaching all of the children at a lower level than what a lot of the HS students are at because of the larger class size, then yes, the HS students are not going to stay at or move beyond their cognitive abilities. Also, the public schools do not provide the mental health, parent resources that may help them get and stay off drugs and alcohol, and provide resources and the encouragement to get out of their impovrished situations. These are the things that HS provide. Saying that HS students do not retain these benefits may not be due to HS, but to the public school.

    45. Diane, Arizona says:

      I would like to add that we don't know where these children attended HS. Our program here is very well run with much accountability. Others may not be as good. These programs should be looked at more closely and changes made if needed.

    46. Michelle Chrisman, M says:

      I am fortunate enough to be an employee of the Head Start program and have three wonderful children who were well-served by Head Start. I was employed with the program when the study was being performed. Not only did the study look at the measurable gains (or lack of) in the areas of cognitive, health, social-emotional and parenting skills that the children and their parents sustained through first grade, the evaluation rigorously and microscopically examined individual centers for adherence to state and local educational, health and safety mandates. Can the same accountability be called into question for other federally funded programs? Head Start provides a quality educational foundation for low-income or disadvantaged children who, otherwise, would be unable to afford such services. Teachers are required to possess, at MINIMUM, an Associates Degree, and will soon be required to hold a Bachelor’s Degree in Education. This program provides more than just the “babysitting services” that the author suggests. Teachers are required to set up and implement lesson plans weekly that optimize childrens growth in the areas of cognitive, social, motor, language and emotional skills. These are directed in a hands-on, play-type atmosphere to foster a love of learning in the children from an early age. Teaching staff is also required to participate in rigorous continuing education courses as well as extensive training in the most up-to-date information in the field of child development. Tests are administered throughout the year to monitor each child's individual growth in the areas of gross and fine motor skills, emotional development, mastery of language skills and conceptual learning. Results from testing are then utilized to develop individualized activities and lessons for each child.

      Aside from the educational framework that Head Start provides these children, the mosaic of services that Head Start offers is instrumental in helping families to procure the basic needs of children and the families it serves. Without food, health and dental services, weather appropriate attire and a secure and safe place to live, it is impossible for children to learn, grow and develop to their fullest potential. Head Start provides families the resources to become self-sufficient in providing these things by offering resources to help with parental education programs, drug and alcohol counseling programs, GED procurement, health and dental screenings, energy assistance referrals and a host of other services. Bear in mind that the families served by Head Start are low-income families that have no way to afford quality preschool programs alone, let alone the additional services Head Start offers. Without the Head Start program, these children would begin primary school at a serious physical, emotional and academic disadvantage.

      Most importantly, the Head Start program gives children stability that they may not receive at home. They are educated in a loving, family-style environment, the kind that more fortunate children experience in the home and that most of the families we serve cannot provide. The children know that they will learn something new everyday and they look forward to it. They know that they will be loved. They know that they will not be labeled and excluded. The children rest assured knowing that they will be fed, that they will rest in a safe place where they are protected. I have seen firsthand through my employment with Head Start the children who are undernourished, cognitively and emotionally delayed, insecure, afraid, labeled as "bad". I have also seen those same children leave the Head Start program healthy, eager to learn, more prepared for primary school, confident of their abilities and secure in the knowledge that they are worthwhile children who have every door open to them in the future. When I hear government officials and others describe how the U.S. government is throwing money away by sustaining the Head Start program, I first wonder, "Where would these children and their families be without Head Start?" I then wonder if the gains that these children make while participating in the Head Start program aren't lost because this attitude of the "whole child" is lost somewhere in early primary school.

      Perhaps the reform needs to take place in the minds of society and in the educational system as a whole.

    47. Pingback: How the Media Are Covering ‘Head Start’s’ Failure | Cato @ Liberty

    48. Dr. Kwame M. Brown, says:

      As a scientist, and child development specialist, I find your post curious on several grounds:

      1) You question the rigorousness of the study only when it suits your purposes, i.e., to expose the supposed "false positives" but not the potential "false negatives".

      2) You failed to reference the other studies that show benefits of participation in Head Start. One study does not a research review make. And please don't fall back on the old "it's just a blog post excuse", because you are not asking for discussion, you are making a strong statement.

      3) You failed to mention the low pay and requirements for many Head Start personnel, that are in the process of being reformed.

      4) You hold up private schools as the gold standard, when everyone knows the significant confounding factor that private schools get to PICK which students attend, and pick which students continue to attend. Although some have lottery systems, this still doesn't speak to their ability to decide continued attendance.

      This is once again an example of the flawed logic of blindly flailing at government "spending" where the actual consideration of the potential reasons behind the purported lack of effect in first grade are quite lazily considered.

      Let me reiterate, and introduce some other potential reasons:

      1) These children are being plugged right back into the environment that Head Start is attempting to counteract. Thus, the solution would be not to CUT funding, but to INCREASE funding for beidging programs in order to support transition through developmental stages

      2) Effects of programs like this are often not immediate, nor are they all encompassing or all sweeping.

      3) Teacher training and pay. The average salary for Head Start personnel was, as of 2003 around $21000. This equals high turnover = lesser quality of personnel due to lack of long term experience and training. You, being it seems, a purported capitalist (as am I) should understand capitalism better. You advocate cutting funding? This hardly seems the logical first step, but more an adherence to a political ideology.

      4) Continued reform of public schools must support this. Sensibly, and comprehensively evaluating teachers, improving funding for schools, and making as a PART of the solution school choice may help in improving the environment that children continue to live in subsequent to their Head Start years.

      5) Neighborhoods must be made safer, and businesses must be incentivized to invest in healthier food and recreation options in these areas.

      What say you?

    49. Pingback: Senate blocks bill repealing $2 billion in oil tax breaks

    50. Denise Martinez Cent says:

      I have been working at a Head Start program for 14 years now and have recieved a B.A in early childhood. I find it difficult with the curriculum chosen to get the children at an academic level that they need to be at. I feel the need to do more but my hands are tied. We do however teach the children social skills that are needed to be successful in school and society but it is a challenge and frustrating to see children that need that extra help fall behind simply because they choose not to participate in academical activities due to the curriculum. I can see both perspectivesof Head Start vs Elementary. Head Start teaches through play and makes learning fun apposed to Elementary drilling and taking the fun out of learning. I however prefer to impliment the best of the two programs and make teaching fun in a school setting while involving all children and it not being an option to participate or go play in the areas.

    51. billybob cowboy says:

      Working for a busing subcontractor who was awarded a transportation contract, I was part of a team of 4 who were sent to present applications to the Head Start drivers in between the three runs of the day. I picked up a pamphlet laying around in the room in which we were working. WOW what benefits I'd never heard of!! incredible retirement benefits, vacation time ramped up pretty well, among others, the best of all: free veterinary insurance for any pet! Can't imagine what that must cost. Curiously, several of the monitors on board were the parents of children attending the program admitted so their parents could get trained to work. Talk about a jobs program. The program exists to transfer money to the staff that's all.

    52. Since when is helping to educate children a waste of money?! These children need to know so much when they enter kindergarten, is it not the same as when I started school. kindergarten was like preschool for me. There are other countries passing us by when it comes to education and technology, so as a country we need to offer our children the best "Head Start" possible. That is just my opinion though!!

    53. Chel says:

      In some cases Teachers need to futher thier education, and the curriculum needs to be changed. Kindergarten has changed so much that children are now expected to know what 1st graders were taught in the past. So in turn Head Start needs to step up and change the curriculum. I have been in the Early Childhood field for 18 years, and teaching Head Start for 3.
      Where are these statistics from? And what education have these teachers recieved?
      I have witnessed first hand teachers that have been with the program for 19 years and do treat it as a "daycare" That is how Head Start gets a bad rep. Its about the teacher wanting to serve the individual child! Being creative and implementing new ideas!
      Currently ALL Head Start teachers are REQUIRED to recieve a Bachelors in Early Childhood by 2013!
      I am working full time, going to school full time, and have a family~ It is very difficult, But I do it because I believe that Head Start WORKS!

    54. Charlotte says:

      I am a Head Start teacher with a BS Degree in Early Childhood Education. What I do makes a big difference in 20 young lives. What does the research show about children who do not attend Head Start, who do not get help at home or anywhere else, and enters kindergarten? I see {and document} the progress my children make. It's not alot of progress with all children, but it is for some. It goes much deeper than ABC's and 123's. Some of my children cannot even hold a pencil correctly when they enroll. I help in ways some of you will never know or understand. I do it because I believe all children need as much help as they can get before entering a school system. I do make a difference.

    55. Chuck says:

      The website of HHS 13 January 2010 press release admits the January 2010 report shows Head Start kids are at the same level as non-Head Start kids at the end of kinder garden and 1st grade .http://www.hhs.gov/news/press/2010pres/01/20100113a.html.

      Why the long period to complete the report? Data collection was completed in the Spring of 2006. Flawed methodology, HHS wanting a different outcome?

      Why is HHS conducting a follow on survey at the end of 3rd grade? HHS agrees that Head Start kids and non-Head Start kids are at the same level at the end of kinder garden and 1st grade so what is the point of continuing the study on to the end of the 3rd grade?

      From the HHS press release:

      “These results make it clear that we need to build a more coordinated system of early care and education, and to focus on key improvements to teaching and learning in the early grades,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “Through our collaboration with our partners at HHS, we have begun to tackle this challenge by identifying the key elements of high quality early learning programs, and studying what works to improve and sustain outcomes once children reach school.”

      The study showed that at the end of one program year, access to Head Start positively influenced children’s school readiness. When measured again at the end of kindergarten and first grade, however, the Head Start children and the control group children were at the same level on many of the measures studied.

    56. head start teacher says:

      I am a Head Start teacher and just like any other teacher my job is hard for people to say that we do not work past first grade may be true when it comes to learning academically. I spend more of my time trying to teach the things that children should learn at home like how to go to the bathroom, wash hands, sit at a table, how to use a fork and spoon, how to share with other, and many more self help schools so for people to say that we are a waste of time is wrong we teach a lot of things that are not being taught in the home. We also make sure that children are getting detail care and medical care, we are screening for speech and other developmental delays. I could not imagine being a Kindergarten teacher and having to take the time to teach a child all this when by the time the leave Kindergarten they need to know how to read and do simple adding and subtracting.

    57. guest says:

      Another government boondoggle. Sort of like food distribution programs to obese the"underprivilaged' when the largest percentage of obesity is in the lowest socioeconomic quintile.

    58. Whistleblower says:

      I witnessed first hand as a Head Start employee, see an Executive Director cover up child abuse. When it was reported to the Board of Directors, the employee was let go. The employee reported it to the Regional Office and nothing was done. So, what is the value?

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.

    ×