HHS Withholding Findings on Head Start Effectiveness

Amanda Lucas, The Foundry, November 5, 2012

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has once again failed to release a timely evaluation of the federally funded Head Start program.


HHS is required to evaluate and report the findings of the effectiveness of Head Start, a preschool program for low-income children. Two years ago, results showed no lasting positive impact for first-graders who completed the program compared to Head Start-eligible children who had not.

In fact, some students who participated in Head Start actually performed worse academically than their peers who hadn’t been enrolled in the program. As Heritage’s David Muhlhausen wrote at the time:

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.

The third-grade follow-up study will likely tell a similar story.

HHS finished analyzing the Head Start data from the third-grade follow-up in 2010. It was set to release its report in September 2011, which then got pushed to September of this year. When it will actually appear is anybody’s guess.

On October 18, Senator Tom Coburn (R—OK) and Representative John Kline (R—MN), chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, wrote a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius requesting the report’s release along with an explanation for the delay.

Coburn pointed out that Head Start has cost taxpayers almost $8 billion this year alone, which translates to more than $14,000 per pupil over two years. Yet the program has failed to produce results.


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  • Puggg

    The Head Start program is administered by HHS. 

    Of course they’ll stuff down the rabbit hole research that shows one of its own programs is ineffective.  You don’t think HHS wants a smaller budget, do you?

  • nodak

    Discontinuing the  program would be an admission that Blacks can’t be educated to the levels of Whites.  So it will never end–even Republicans are wildly supportive of it.  Besides, we need to keep it going so kids are ready for excellence when that magic formula is discovered that eliminates  the education gap.

  • libertarian1234

    Head start is just another hare-brained liberal scheme to try to keep blacks from falling behind, because they refuse to accept the fact that blacks cannot learn at the same speed and level as other races.

    If they…and blacks…had free reign to do as they pleased, they would assign an individual tutor to each black student, thinking that teaching was the problem, rather than a lack of learning ability.

    They should concentrate only on what they have been doing for years now, which is cheating for blacks on tests and inflating their grades.  That’s the only way they’re going to get equality in learning.

    • crystal evans

      This is one of Lyndon Johnson’s poverty elimination programs from the 1960’s. Most of these programs never helped anybody except the administrators who raked in the money.

  • Frank

    This baby sitting program will stay because Blacks want it.  It is surprising that the report is not out, after all, this administration is the most transparent ever.

    • Nicholai Hel

      Why can’t white women jump on the multiple baby/daddy bandwagon too? White, section 8 style  broodmares could try to out-breed and out gibsmi others. The gubmint would be required to fund the experiment. Why hasn’t it been tried?

  • Triarius

    They’ll delay the truth (or truff) forever if they can. These people at HHS have to protect their bull jobs. Next year they’ll change one minute thing, blame whitey, and say they need to try it again.

    Insanity is repeating the same thing and expecting different results.

  • Michael_C_Scott

    The program cost $14,000 per pupil while achieving nothing, and now program administrators are refusing to release their report to congress.

    Nobody could make this stuff up.

    On one level, the Head Start program is wildly successful; it provides a reasonable living for thousands of otherwise unemployable dimwits who play “dress up” and pretend to administrate this criminal theft from the public.  Since Head Start originated in 1965 as part of Johnson’s “Great Society” tax parasitism hustle, that was likely the whole point from the program’s inception.

  • The__Bobster

    A couple of years ago, I did a search for “Head Start failure”. I had to wade through three pages of misleading .gov and .edu hits before discovering the truth. It seems the educrats learned the art of keyword stuffing.

  • Tom P.

    Arthur Jensen, who broke the ice on the  topic of whether Head Start was attaining
    it  p-r-o-f-e-s-s-e-d   aims,  nonetheless supported continuing the program.   What
    Head Start seemed to demonstrate was the usefulness of disadvantaged children having
    for at least for a short time,  a safe and structured environment in which attention was
    given to elemental manners and social rules, to nutrition, etc.  That  Big Government
    may have flopped in what it aimed to do and succeeded in domains it had not even
    contemplated , is not breaking news.  

  • crystal evans

    Head Start is a babysitting service for low income mothers. They could care less about their child’s education since they probably do not have an education themselves. The children who did not go to Head Start probably got some home education that the Head Start students never get.

  • EndTimesComing

    Well, it should come as no surprise.  It’s the same thing as for regular school achievement.  You cannot make generic and genetic stupid into not stupid anymore.  No matter how much money you throw at it.
    No more than you could spend the kind of money that got us to the moon trying to teach a pig how to fly on his own and have a positive result.

  • Bon, From the Land of Babble

    Head Start was created in 1964 as a part of LBJ’s Great Society campaign:

    “Children are inheritors of poverty’s curse and not its creators…we set out to make certain that poverty’s children would not be forevermore poverty’s captives.”
    But in 2010, a study conducted by HHS found that the $150 billion that taxpayers have “invested” in Head Start since 1965 yielded zero lasting benefits. According to the Head Start Impact Study: “the benefits of access to Head Start at age four are largely absent by 1st grade for the program population as a whole.”

    The New American Foundation reports:

    In the critical area of vocabulary, 3-year-olds entered the study at the 29th percentile in terms of national norms and finished first grade at the 24th percentile whether or not they attended Head Start.

    And, from The Heritage Foundation, 2010:

     Head Start has little to no effect on cognitive, socio-emotional, health, and parenting outcomes of children participating in the program.

    Yet despite these studies and reports and against all known empirical evidence, President 0bama argues that “investing” in increased government spending on preschool yields “big results later in life.”

    “For every dollar we invest in these programs, we get nearly $10 back in reduced welfare rolls, fewer health care costs, and less crime.” 

    Coburn pointed out that Head Start has cost taxpayers almost $8 billion this year alone.

    According to the GAO, there are currently 69 federal early education and child care programs. Taxpayers are currently spending at least $25 billion annually on these programs.

    What 0bama and his minions argue (because there is no such thing as IQ) is that if there are no lasting results, well, THAT is the fault of the schools.


  • IstvanIN

    In summation: 8 billion dollars to make a silk purse out of sows ear.

  • Anon

    An alternative program: when a child is enrolled in Head Start, give their parent $14,000 in cash to use as they see fit.  A $50 US Savings Bond issued in 1990 (around 20 years ago) is worth more than $75 today.  $14,000 in US Savings Bonds today maturing at the same rate over the same period of time yields over $21,000.  Those ready for college would have a strong down payment.  Those ready for work would have the means to get a car, an apartment, etc. until those paychecks started coming in.  Those ready for a family could offer good care for their children in an emergency.  Those willing to take risks could re-invest the money.  And those ready to not do any of these could have a fine party.

    Opposition to this imaginary free money program yields curious results.  To say these parents shouldn’t get free money with no strings attached suggests they are bad parents – an unacceptable outcome for supporters of Head Start.  To say the government is a more fit parent than a biological parent is also unacceptable as eugenics, but is an inevitable outcome of opposition to free money give-aways.

    Community-based charity, with all the strings attached that the community in question may impose, seems a more humane answer.  This was a role fulfilled by religious and ethnic groups for centuries.  In the interest of diversity, charity has suffered.

    • Puggg

      Get ready for a lot of parties.  Future time orientation isn’t really the “thang” of the kind of parents who enroll their “chillunz” in head start. 

      Because…keepin’ it real.

    • Ted L.

      An off shoot of what you mention may just to give due cognizance to what technology now
      makes possible–namely a complete audio-video record of how  a money grant is being used
      in a home  (apartment, RV , etc.) to help a child with educational readiness efforts.  If it’s working, it’ll be readily evident by just viewing random segments of what’s recorded..  If it’s not….turn off the dollar spigot.  In a larger sense, this can be done for home schooling generally to see if the effort is working and, if so, to keep the Nanny State from stopping the
      home schooling effort in such a particular instance.  

    • Howard W. Campbell

      $21000 to many of the former head start students would make you a rich man in the joint. 

  • Anonymous

    I actually attended Head Start as a child (I’m from a family of poor whites and I’m young) and I can vouch for its failure from the inside. At the time I didn’t notice it, but looking back, I only ever had non-white “teachers” there, who didn’t do anything but dispense snacks at snack time and keep non-white kids from harming each other. I’m certain I never received an iota of actual education there, though I turned out fine anyway. I feel bad that so much money was spent on me for something so useless though.

  • Spartan24708

    We pay close to 500.00 a month for our daughter’s preschool. For that we get real academic work, a full day program and real education. Where is 14,000 dollars a student going? Sure it is a struggle to pay the tuition but it is far better than most of the alternatives.

    • Michael_C_Scott

      We pay nothing; though Ariadne can read my history books, and while her writing is at a seventh grade level, she’s five years old.  I was discussing the Russian navy, and said is was mostly an expensive luxury except for the wars agaist Sweden and the Ottoman Empire, and Ariadne tugged at my sleeve and said no.  She explained that the Russian Black Sea Fleet kept the German 11th Army busy in the siege of Sevastopol in 1942 and tied it down.

      I like it when she’s right.  She was right.  The Russian Black Sea Fleet ran supplies and men into Sevastopol and wounded back out, and took heavy losses, as the Luftwaffe had become quite good at sinking British ships in the Meditteranean by then.  The siege of Sevastopol unhinged the whole German southern advance in 1942, and cost the attack on Stalingrad the entire 11th army, as it was delayed and worn out.

      A little girl who likes to read is never a bad thing, and sometimes quite amazing.

      She wants me to start “Freelancer” for her, which I can not refuse, but she wants to fly my own ship, which I always refuse.  I’ll show her how to fly it.  It’s not the ship; it’s the pilot.  I never aim at another fighter; I aim at the cockpit.  I’ve talked her into flying a P-47C Thunderbolt with me in another simulator.

      OK we have an escort mission with B-17s.

      Coached her through takeoff and have her guns armed.

      Meeting up with bombers, and told her to stay to my left.  My wife is taking over online here.

      Huns 3 even, stay with the bombers.  Armed?  Pull up with me, we can clobber them at this alt.  Stay with me.
      Me-410s.  This is going to be easy.  Stay with me darlin.


      Good darlin.  See Mr. smokey about a mile ahead? 


      We’re going to take him from behind and a bit above.  I want you to throttle up a little and start shooting when he’s as big as the reticle.  Aim just foreward of his nose.  I’ll be right behind so nobody can get at you; you do the shoot.

      She broke both wings off the 410.  It was perfect.

       Who needs to teach his daughter to use guided missiles?


  • Murphy

    Another free baby sitting program for blacks. 

  • Howard W. Campbell

    “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.”

    Probably because those kids not in head start are more likely to have 2 caring parents who take time to teach their children. My kids were ready for 1st (and some instances 2nd) grade when they went to kindergarten. Yes, there were/are a few dim bulbs at my kids school, but nothing on the scale that one would see in the inner city schools down the road. However, through a lot of struggle and sacrifice, my wife was a stay at home mom for several years and I worked a second job.

    Is there any kind of tracking method used by Head Start to see what happens to little Quantavious from the time he is 3 until age 18 or 21? 

    • Michael_C_Scott

      Yes, there is such a tracking system.  It is called the “FBI Uniform Crime Reports”.

  • Michael_C_Scott

    I think the reason that HHS is willing to in effect give congress the finger by not producing a report is that if the republicans in the House cut their budget, the resulting screaming will sound like “Dem racists be taken da edumacation fom our babies!” and they simply don’t think the GOP has the guts to do this.

    Unfortunately, they’re almost certainly right.