• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Evidence Is Clear: Head Start Is Ineffective

    House Republicans are attempting to live up to their pledge to cut $100 billion from the federal government’s current fiscal year 2011 budget. One of the proposed programs placed on the chopping block is Head Start – a “Great Society” pre-school program intended to provide a boost to disadvantaged children before they enter elementary school.

    The plan is to make a significant cut to a highly ineffective program that is plagued by fraud. Using Head Start’s budget of $7.235 billion in fiscal year 2010 as the baseline, the plan is to cut $1.083 billion – a 15.0 percent cut. If President Obama’s fiscal year 2011 Head Start budget request of $8.224 billion is used as the baseline, the plan is to cut $2.072 billion—a 25.2 percent cut. Based on Head Start’s ineffectiveness, these cuts are certainly justified.

    The national 2010 Head Start Impact Study found that Head Start is clearly ineffective. The study placed almost 5,000 children eligible for Head Start into two treatment conditions based on a lottery. The children who won the lottery were awarded “free” (taxpayer-paid) access to pre-kindergarten Head Start services, while the others either did not attend preschool or sought out alternatives to Head Start.

    The 2010 Head Start Impact Study tracked the progress of three- and four-year-olds entering Head Start through kindergarten and the first grade. Overall, the program had little to no positive effects. For the four-year old group, compared to similarly situated children not allowed access to Head Start, access to the program failed to raise the cognitive abilities of participants on 41 measures. Specifically, the language skills, literacy, math skills, and school performance of the participating children failed to improve.

    Alarmingly, access to Head Start for the three-year-old group actually had a harmful effect on the teacher-assessed math ability of these children once they entered kindergarten. Teachers reported that non-participating children were more prepared in math skills than those children who participated in Head Start.

    Also, Head Start has little to no effect on the other socio-emotional, health, and parenting outcomes of children participating in the program. For the four-year-old group, access to Head Start failed to have an effect for 70 out of 71 socio-emotional, health, and parenting outcomes. The three-year-old group did slightly better; access to Head Start failed to have an effect for 66 of the 71 socio-emotional, health, and parenting outcomes.

    In sum, Head Start failed to have an effect on 110 out of 112 outcome measures for the four-year-old group. For the three-year-old group, Head Start failed to have an impact on 106 out of 112 measures, with five beneficial impacts and one harmful impact.

    If there is one program that deserves to be on the chopping block, it is Head Start.

    Posted in Education [slideshow_deploy]

    32 Responses to Evidence Is Clear: Head Start Is Ineffective

    1. David Brunjes Lake F says:

      So if the program is such a waste if money, why are they considering reducing the funding? Why not just eliminate the whole program? The federal government should not be involved in this anyway – leave it to the state and local governments.

      • unll45k says:

        don't read like a blind sheep; read the article and look for falacies, check the so called studies for accuracy to the related article then decide on your own if you feel this article is valid or just another essay full of lies and deception. Did you read the study or did you just look at the authors profestional looking picture and just blindly follow like another sheep in the herd. I strongly suggest you and everyone else read the study!

    2. Bobbie says:

      Glorified daycare. If parents/people want this, they can pay the expense or remove. It's waste and waste is not need. Private daycares are beneficial to the parents looking for specifications regarding their children's upbringing. Who knows what government is doing to their minds at such a young, vulnerable age, ESPECIALLY IN TODAY'S WORLD…

    3. Joel Ryan says:

      I give the Heritage Foundation an A for effort, but an F for accuracy. This is probably the 100th time you have spent time blogging about the effectiveness of Head Start. It seems that no matter which research is highlighted you come to the same conclusion. So here are the facts: the Head Start impact study says several times that the program got children for school. No doubt about it. If you do your homework you will find this. This study is also one of multiple studies on the program. Researchers from UCLA to Nobel Winning Economists have found that children that have attended Head Start were more likely to be ready for school, less likely to need special education services, less likely to repeat a grade and more likely to graduate from high school. That is just the facts. A study even found that Head Start reduced the incidence of crime. If you want to talk research check out the latest results from Montgomery County, Maryland in which the school district estimates savings of up to $11,000 per child per year because of Head Start. Regardless I am sure you will find something wrong with Head Start despite the facts, but again I give you an A for effort in your attempts to make the case that Head Start should not be funded. Unfortunately once again the accuracy of your blog receives an F.

    4. Yasmina Vinci, Alexa says:

      I had deep respect for intellectual honesty of Heritage Foundation authors – until Mr. Mulhausen's repeated distortions of the facts of the Head Start Impact Study, and omission of other facts, along with his complete disregard for other compelling evidence of Head Start's effectiveness. For instance, James Heckman, a Nobel-winning economist from one of the most conservative Departments of Economics, looking at the return on various public investments, found programs such as Head Start and Early Head Start to have the highest return on investment in long term measures of individual and family success as productive citizens and community members.

    5. Pingback: Tweets that mention Evidence Is Clear: Head Start Is Ineffective | The Foundry: Conservative Policy News. -- Topsy.com

    6. Bobbie says:

      Joel, do you have a "special interest" to support. I'm not understanding what you mean by "the Head Start impact study says several times that the program got children for school." Isn't that the sole purpose? While the parents continue their dual incomes without the expense of their children? It's DAYCARE! We paid for our children's daycare when they needed it why do we have to continue when they don't? So some people get a freebie we didn't?

      All the claims of head start are speculative. The cost should come from those parents who benefit from it as it takes away the parental responsibility the rest of us are expected to have the parental instinct to deal with. What other parents lack shouldn't be catered by those that don't. Absolutely no reason for this to be funded by tax payers.

    7. Carol A. Martin says:

      Obviously Heritage doesn't know a darn thing about early childhood education or rural poverty. I live in a community of 3500 people and believe me our Head Start Program works with families to prepare children for the dynamics of kindergarten. Our approach is child wellness, medical and dental, family goals, interventions when needed with CPS, parent education, financial literacy, and education with a high emphasis on literacy. We link families to services and partner with community services so our young children will have a healthy, educated start in life. In a community riddled with high unemployment, drug problems, low adult educational skills, domestic violence and other social ills, 3 1/2 hours a day 4 days a week for our children is not only educational but a healthy respite from the ills of their parents' lives. Our children learn how to use their words to advocate for themselves. They are taught pathways of communicating that are successful unlike those of many of the parents. If congress doesn't want to fund Head Start then I recommend that Early Childhood Education be mandated by the Federal Government for all children to be funded by the Federal and State Government. This isn't where the Republican agenda is at. You want to continue with tax cuts for the rich, bail out the banks and car companies, deregulate EVERYTHING so business can run amuk and let those of us, especially our children take the back seat to greed. Shame on Heritage and all of its minions.

    8. Pingback: Fund the Things That Work. Cut the Ones That Don’t. « American Elephants

    9. Real American says:

      If the purpose of this program were to increase education outcomes it needs to be eliminated as it doesn't achieve those results. However, like most govt programs, the true purpose is to create constituencies dependent on govt spending and payoff those constituencies (education union establishment) for their votes, which this program does. Head Start is effective at spending money, which is why it still exists.

    10. Bobbie says:

      And those who see any effectiveness are failing to see it's all the responsibilities of the parents. Obviously failures to their own personal/parental responsibilities that tug on the skirts of government to do it for them. You want it? You pay for it. Then we'll see how effective it is. There is absolutely nothing to show any proof head start does anything but waste money and who knows what to the children they take in.

      All government programs should expense the costs to those that benefit Tax payers without benefit shouldn't be held accountable to the expense. I betcha, if those benefiting were held accountable to any amount of the expense as they should be, they'd think for themselves "Is it really worth it?" "can I do it for myself?" "I could start a daycare business on my own." Put the cost on those that benefit!

    11. Carol A. Martin says:

      Some of the comments are obviously not made by people educated in early childhood education nor the fact that Head Start is NOT A DAYCARE. If a center does have child care within its individual program it assists parents with child care who have jobs. Many have a co pay that they are responsible for. Those that do not have a co pay are working a minimum wage full time job. Many private day cares for profit do have a preschool component added to their program.They are also unaffordable for parents with minimum wage jobs. I also take note against 'the education union establishment' Head Start is not unionized and believe me the workers in the field do not make education 'union scale wages'. So Bobbie the organization is not a glorified day care. In so far as what the 'government is doing to their minds' check out the curriculum at your local Head Start, volunteer to spend time with our nation's children, read a book to them, converse with them, help them with math and literacy goals become part of this country's best solution for giving poor children a leg up.

    12. Bobbie says:

      Carol, In what ways are 3 year old children being influenced by Head Start when their minds are at such a vulnerable stage? Who knows? You're one person of many. it's not the government's job.

      It''s a daycare that accommodates working parents. If the cost was expected from the parents they might think twice about having children they can't afford. What background checks verify the parents afford-ability level? If private daycare is unaffordable, someone could start one that is. Or put the expense on the parents that benefit from this government run accommodation.

    13. Pingback: Morning Bell: Is This Program Worth Bankrupting My Child? | The Foundry: Conservative Policy News.

    14. rumadyet says:

      Not near enough in cuts, it should be cut by 75 to 85% now. Funded enrollment verses attendance , child care for employees, what a mess, very low wages for staff, staff can qualify for own program, this is not by accident. Past Head Start parents gain access to Head Start employment over anyone else. Priority points are scam. Each county in the US has Head Start. and Migrant Head Start, EHS, HS you name it , Head Start has a budget that is insane. Who was watching? Only the people at the TOP and the Bottom the people who are paying for it are in the middle working there @%$@ off. Enough. CUT IT NOW

    15. rumadyet says:

      I know the promise and the performance standards by heart and Head Start has a great program, but the idea is just and idea, and really does not work, it replaces parents, and I have seen first hand classrooms, with 5 children a bus driver a Head Teacher, Associate Teacher, Cook, janitor, Not to mention all the staff at the admin office to keep all the employees going and the children. The staff on it best days are 3 adults to one children, reality is it is about 5 adults to one child. Enrollment and attendance is very different thing..There is no incentive to keep classrooms full, when enrollment is the funding factor.

    16. Ellen says:

      You ask "In what ways are 3 year old children being influenced by Head Start when their minds are at such a vulnerable stage?" At this stage in their life they are influenced by not only the things that they learn at school but also in their homes and communities. At school they are given the opportunity to learn social skills including empathy, anger management, problem solving, and how to resolve conflicts without getting physical. They also learn literacy, math, science, cognitive skills, nutrition, and they will increase their fine/gross motor skills. These are the things that they will learn at Head Start. Some influences that children can incurred in their homes or communities are violent television shows/video games, profanity spoken around them, poor nutrition, domestic violence and abuse (physical, mental, or sexual).

      Let's remember "It takes a village to raise a child."

    17. Carol A. Martin says:

      Bobbie, you have to have income verification and that may be one of the following:W-2 forms, check stubs, TANF award letters, or income tax returns. I also noticed that you didn't seem to keen to investigate curriculum or to volunteer at a Head Start. Are you going to be that 'someone' to start 'affordable daycare'?

    18. rumadyet says:

      regarding income , no copies are required at all to keep, it is just the word of the Head Start worker, yes they are to verify income, but all to often and it has been proven, many many times, it is not!!! or is false, and if no proof is required, and the box , "Did you verify income" is check, that is all that needed. Each Head Start has a very large budget, multiply that by every county is US, add Migrant Head Start, "not to many people know about that program" Its crazy. The budget is about 12 billion a year, You heard me, RUMADYET, just for a program that has a 3 hour day, 4 days a week, 2 weeks at Christmas ,24 paid Holidays, summers off, WOW How much does the public really know about HEAD START. Low wages so almost all employees qualify for all welfare services What a scam. How many employees does HS really have in US? I cant find the data.

    19. Bobbie says:

      Ellen, you're exaggerating. And all social skills are learned naturally in every day life. Why have it focused using the influence of government run head start?

      Carol, I have done daycare and the school I volunteer at (kindergarten – third) was just closed down. Volunteer at no pay to be specific. I'm not in position to start a daycare, it is an idea that is better in comparison to Head start.

      If Head start is run by volunteers then again, I don't believe the income is verified thoroughly or the expense of head start wouldn't be coming out of tax payers pockets. Something pretty fishy and corrupt going on.

      Whatever can't be afforded from those benefiting you should be paid according to! My husband and i do everything we can to provide for our family without taking from the tax payers but obligated to give unfairly. Why aren't others expected to? it's an accommodation that is ineffective. Privatize if you support it that much. Otherwise, IT'S GOT TO GO!

    20. Carol A. Martin says:

      Rumadyet..if this center you are referring to had 5 children enrolled then the regional office was not on top of the enrollment and this scenario is not fiscally viable. To the regional office and the grantee I say "Shame on you". However, do not paint Head Start with a broad brush of one incident or one center. When it comes to cuts in the Federal Budget I believe they are necessary. How about 10% across the board (all items in the budget) and go to the people in the trenches, not management to decide where the waste and mismanagement needs to be pruned? Let's begin with Congress' Health care plan for themselves and their retirement benefits which are absurd. Start taxing offshore accounts held by Americans to pay down the debt after the 10% cuts.

    21. rumadyet says:

      Carol I so agree , However the class room was enrolled for 20 , but the attendance was 5, like most HS I have watch many. To many, this was not rare. I have travel all over the US looking at HS. I love the idea of the program , however. It is not possible to keep in the manner it is being done. The home base program if ran well , with very qualified people can make a great long term effect, and more for the money, If HS worked so many returning past Head Start children would now not be in the program as adults. HS brags about how many HS parents were children in HS in the past and the room with over 400 people over 3/4 stands up. Really does it work? I wish it did. It works to keep so many employees at very low wages, and they are using children of educational poverty as the anchors.

    22. Carol A. Martin says:

      RUMADYET.. where do you get that income verification is not kept? As for 24 paid holidays a year? Please! Sign me up for that! In so far as summers 'off' they are not paid. And to Bobbie–all social skills are learned 'naturally' well there's a plethora of negative social non-skills out there and they too are learned in the homes, the neighborhoods and from peers. Tell you what if ignorance is what you want, more education interventions in the form of IEP's during Kindergarten rather than preschool have it your way. Head Start begins early intervention for children who would languish for two to three years prior to kindergarten That is not a good thing when early intervention for Autism, Ausbergers, a multitude of other developmental delays begins through screening and partnering with school districts to get things rolling for the children that have developmental needs. I have to say kudos to you Bobbie for volunteering! Enough said.

    23. rumadyet says:

      Carol, Head Start is lucky to have you, they find great people with great heart who love kids, and know how to work, you are wonderful. However, I wish you were in all the HS I have been in, and met the people I have met, I love HS, Have for years, I was heartbroken after putting in so many years, and to see, it not work, and managers and staff who were not in it for the kids. They are not rare, you are. I see HS take advantage of great staff and work them to death for a terrible wage, and yes unemployment in the summer, but yes, all that time off, its there, it is in many HS's, and I mean many HS's. It is so big. I want it to work, and many times it does, however look at the cost, if it was your money (which it is) would you spend it this way for all HS's. You just cannot pick yours, sorry its bigger than you. I agree enough this debate could go on and on. Sorry.

    24. Bobbie says:

      Carol, government run public schools don't even discipline. They accept any excuse and teach children how to challenge parents authority. Which means they don't teach accountability or responsibility. Why would I want my children at three years old brought up this way? I wouldn't and this is a threat.

      Parents correct the actions of their children. What's negative to you, might be positive to someone else. Like abortion. The children's minds are vulnerable and easily influenced. When I heard the president himself, suggest teaching masturbation at age 5, (something that is not of necessity to be taught) leaves me a little suspicious of what they're influencing now at three.

      If people love their children they know it is not right to put them under the influence of what they can't possibly know unless they are there with their kids.

      Private daycare is a business of accountability that aids in upbringing of what the parents expect. The cost is the responsibility of the parents where it should be and the parents are in much more control. It's not the government's responsibility or business, period. And if you really love kids, money wouldn't be an option and you'd teach n the private sector where you're worth would be greatly appreciated and not taken advantage of. God Bless.

    25. Stacie says:

      Carol, I love everything yo are saying about Head Start! Some people just don't get. I have been a Head Start teacher for 18 years!!!! And I know I have helped a lot of chilren and families. I'm really sad that this news paper (David) failed to do his research. If he woud have he would of seen that Head Start is a great program!

    26. Bobbie says:

      I'm sorry ladies. The evidence is in. It can''t be afforded with no significant benefit.

      What can be done in the private sector should not involve the interference or instruction of government especially at the expense of tax payers. When parents pay their way they are more selective and expectant of the day care of their child and it can be a wealthy business if you have the expectations of the parents. You're worth WOULD be much more appreciated and alot more honest. The business is between the two involved. You and the parent. Not you, government and the non-beneficial to the tax payer. If things don't work out for you at Head Start, I hope you find success with freedom in the market. God Bless

    27. Bobbie says:

      no significant benefit to the children. Head Start didn't help where it was expected. So the truth is, it's a free daycare at someone elses expense.

    28. Belldonna floriy says:

      Money and a lot of it is poured into a program for underprevilige children but that is the onlly area where it is not a waste perhaps the biggest wast comes from over paid admistrators and such employees who have a vast control over polices and procedures. The goverment needs to look into fruad and corruption first before eliminating the whole program. There are many deserving children out there who can use the opportunity in getting some kind of early education especially when they have two parents working full time. If the money goes to the teachers and the children for the classroom, you will begin to see results of the advantages of early childhood education. Everthing else is bloated mney wasted on beaurcrates.

    29. Bonnie says:

      I am a child care center owner. We teach children thankfulness and to respect others' rights; where HS curriculum teaches them self importance. HS children are segregated by being only low income, where we have a mixture of economic backgrounds. We provide care 12-14 hours per day, 5 days per week, 52 weeks each year, closing only 1 day for each of 6 major holidays. Low income families may qualify for government assistance to pay their tuition; paid only for the actual days the children attend, and only while the parent is either at work or in school. Preschool teaching is integrated into the daily schedule. The state of Ohio tried an Early Learning Initiative program which integrated into private day cares children who may have otherwise been in HS; but as state leadership changed, the program was scrapped. As a private center, we are accountable to the parents, along with meeting State Dept. of JFS and Dept. of Education standards. Since we do not receive direct government funds per each enrolled child, we have to be very efficient financially. HS is a very expensive program that could be privatized at a much less cost to the taxpayer.

    30. I cherished up to you’ll receive performed right here. The caricature is attractive, your authored material stylish. however, you command get got an edginess over that you wish be turning in the following. in poor health no doubt come more beforehand again since exactly the similar nearly very often within case you protect this hike.

    31. Joseph says:

      I worked for a Head Start program for almost 2 years and if the other programs are as ineffective as this one was then I say shut it down. Please remember that I only worked for one program so I don't know anything about other Head Start programs. However, this program gave more points to non-working parents and thus giving them a higher probability of enrolling a child in the program. Some parents have several children of various ages either in the program or was in the program. Children were not always enrolled based on eligibility but often on the whim of the director. Parents were not always sanctioned when a child was out for an excessive number of times. (Example: an infant was enrolled and missed over 53 days and although this was pointed out to the director this child remained in the program.. Based on my direct view on this program (only) Head Start is a dismal failure.

    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.