Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Does Head Start "Work", Whatever That Means, Or Not?

Define success, and then measure the degree of attainment. Otherwise, it's just a sacred cow:
Data collection for the first phase of the “National Head Start Impact Study,” began in 2002 and ended in 2006, tracking Head Start participants from ages 3- and 4-years old through first grade. In 2006, the Department of Health and Human Services extended the study to track these students through the end of third grade to determine whether Head Start yields lasting benefits.

In January 2010, after four years of “analysis,” the HHS Department finally released the results on Head Start’s impact on first graders. The study found that, compared to their control group peers, Head Start failed to boost students’ cognitive abilities across 41 measures. Moreover, first grade teachers reported that former Head Start students were actually less prepared in math than the non-Head Start students.

Now, in 2012, we await the final results of the follow-up study on Head Start’s impact on third graders. Data collection for that study was completed in 2008. Why hasn’t this information been released? It’s hard to imagine that it really takes researchers four years to analyze an evaluation of 5,000 youngsters. After all, the United States fought and won in the Pacific and Atlantic fronts of World War II in less time.
Why have the results not been made public? What would be a reasonable explanation for this?


Left Coast Ref said...

How long until the researchers are called "racist" or "elitist" for not wanting to continue to support those involved in Head Start around the nation?

Problem is no-one will want to eliminate it because those are jobs.

allen (in Michigan) said...

Hard to say but I'm going to guess that a stopwatch is more appropriate then a calendar.

In any case, this is hardly news. I've been reading that Head Start's been widely regarded as a failure for a long time. The real question is, how to go about shutting Head Start down?

PeggyU said...

I just heard some report on the radio yesterday that preschool education in Washington should be expanded because studies have shown that children who have attended preschool adapt better to kindergarten. I am still not convinced that kindergarten is necessary, however.

mazenko said...

However, you can't discount the EQ that is developed. Head Start kids are more likely to graduate high school, apply to college, and finish college. They are less likely to be arrested or have children out of wedlock. They are less likely to do drugs or drop out. This edge up in neighborhoods where failure is high should be considered valid and supportable.

Darren said...

I've heard such claims made, mazenko, but I've never seen any evidence for them.

allen (in Michigan) said...

Yup. Everything I've ever read says the effects of Headstart disappear by third grade and aren't that great till then.

So feel free to provide a citation of some sort.

mazenko said...

Yes, but have you actually looked?

Into Adulthood: A Study of the Effects of Head Start by Sherri Oden, Lawrence Schweinhart, and David Weikart with Sue Marcus and Yu Xie (2000).


allen (in Michigan) said...

That's nice. You should contact the GAO. The Government Accounting Office hasn't been able to discern any long-term benefits to Head Start - www.gao.gov/archive/1997/he97059.pdf

Oh, and Head Start's been around since 1965.

In that length of time I'd expect the impact, and advantages, to be unequivocal. Head Start does, after all, require the spending of other people's money to fund so the results ought to be clear. They aren't.

Ellen K said...

I think Headstart is just another in a series of feelgood programs that absorb more in revenue than they produce. Unfortunately, most of these programs are treated as free daycare by the people who use them. In other words, the kids come when parents are working and stay home when they are not. This means that structure and continuity are not maintained.