Head Start Study Finds Limited Effects

Cheryl Wetzstein, Washington Times, June 9

The first report from a national study on the impact of the $7 billion Head Start program finds it has little or no effect in many areas of child well-being and, in general, does not “close the gap” between low-income preschoolers and their peers in the general population.

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According to a copy of the study obtained yesterday by The Washington Times, Head Start had a small to modest impact on about 5,000 preschoolers in their ability to identify letters, draw and name colors, but no effect on their early math skills or oral comprehension.

Regarding mood and behavior problems, such as aggressiveness, depression or hyperactivity, Head Start reduced some of these problems in 3-year-olds but not in 4-year-olds.

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“I think this report is very consistent with what the president has been saying about Head Start for the last four years, which is that while Head Start does have some effects on some measures, the magnitude of those effects tend to be small to moderate,” Mr. Horn said.

Children leaving Head Start continue to fall behind national norms significantly, despite whatever progress they may have made, he said. “Therefore, there’s a compelling need to continue to focus on increasing the effectiveness of the Head Start program.”

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