Quotes on Head Start

"Created as part of the War on Poverty in 1965, Head Start is a preschool community-based program funded by the federal government. By providing education, nutrition, and health services, Head Start is intended to provide a boost to disadvantaged children before they enter elementary school. Its goal is to help disadvantaged children catch up to children living in more fortunate circumstances."

David B. Muhlhausen Ph.D.
Dan Lips
Backgrounder, #2363
The Heritage Foundation
January 21, 2010
Library Topic
Library Topic: Head Start

"Since 1965, the federal government has sought to improve early educational opportunities for disadvantaged children through the Head Start program, spending more than $167 billion of taxpayers' money on Head Start. Head Start currently serves approximately 900,000 at an annual cost of at least $7,300 per child."

David B. Muhlhausen Ph.D.
Dan Lips
Backgrounder, #2363
The Heritage Foundation
January 21, 2010
Library Topic
Library Topic: Head Start

"With seven major objectives--improve the child's physical health, help the child's emotional and social development, improve the child's mental processes, establish expectations of success, increase the child's ability to relate positively to family, develop in the child and his family a responsible attitude toward society, and increase the sense of dignity and self-worth of the child and his family--Head Start raised a high bar that, in retrospect, doomed it to failure before it even began."

Darcy Ann Olsen
Human Events
Cato Institute
September 1, 2000
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Library Topic: Head Start

"Studies confirm that poor children begin school at a disadvantage and that this disparity grows throughout elementary and secondary schooling. In its almost 40 years of existence, Head Start has failed to close that gap. Head Start advocates blame the failure on a lack of financial support, not enough enrolled children, and not enough qualified teachers.

Yet why is the $7,000 per-student we are paying for the 900,000 children in Head Start not enough to provide "level" educational opportunities?

The problem is not the amount of funding. The problem is that a federal agency is trying to run a local preschool program, which results in an inefficient allocation of funds. (The people closest to the problem are the best equipped to fix it, and handle the money to do so -- not Washington.) The history of welfare reform suggests that Head Start program can be administered in a smarter way."

Michael D. Tanner
Jenifer Zeigler
Cato.org
Cato Institute
October 6, 2003
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Library Topic: Head Start

"Perhaps the best indication of Head Start's slumping reputation comes from low-income parents themselves, who now often choose other programs for their children. One can see this in the declining proportional enrollment of four-year-olds, Head Start's prime age group. Between 1997 and 2004, even as Head Start's funded enrollment increased by 22 percent, the number of four-year-olds in the program increased by an insignificant 2 percent.

In fact, because so many poor families now use other programs, Head Start has, for all practical purposes, run out of poor four-year-olds to serve. Rather than try to make itself more attractive to these families, Head Start advocates persuaded Congress in late 2007 to raise the income eligibility ceiling (essentially from the poverty line to 130 percent of poverty).

Surely, we can all agree that disadvantaged children deserve much better. And it is not simply a question of spending more money. Already, on a full-time, annualized basis, Head Start costs about $22,600 per child. Compare that $9,500 for a full-time child care center. Unfortunately, the Head Start establishment and its allies have persuaded key congressional leaders to protect the program from needed reform."

Douglas J. Besharov
Douglas M. Call
New York Times
American Enterprise Institute
February 8, 2009
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Library Topic: Head Start

"I don't know what to do about Head Start, but I have two observations.

One, this country spends an astronomical amount on public education, so it's not like we don't care about educating the kids. But all the brilliant teachers, great books, fun games and nifty posters can't make up for millions of fatherless homes and crazy-quilt families. More should be done to support stable, married, two-parent homes, especially in poor neighborhoods.

Second, abstinence education, which once received roughly $200 million a year — chump change by Head Start standards — has been pilloried and is now greatly reduced (to $50 million a year) because some studies claimed it 'didn't work.'"

Cheryl Wetzstein
The Washington Times
March 30, 2010
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Library Topic: Head Start

"A rigorous, national study has found that by the time Head Start children finish first grade, they score virtually the same on cognitive, socioemotional, health and parent-child interaction measures as poor children who didn't attend Head Start.

In other words, when it comes to delivering measurable, lasting outcomes, Head Start is more hype than help."

Cheryl Wetzstein
The Washington Times
March 30, 2010
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Library Topic: Head Start

"The Head Start program, created in 1965 as part of the War on Poverty, is intended to boost the school readiness of low-income children. Head Start has grown from its early days of originally offering six-week summer sessions for 4-year-olds, to providing typically nine-month and sometimes year-long programs serving children from three to five years of age. The program is dedicated to promoting school readiness and providing comprehensive child development services to low-income children, their families, and communities, with an underlying premise that low-income children and families need extra support to prepare them for the transition to school. …

Based on a ― 'whole child' model, the Head Start program focuses on ― '. . . helping preschoolers develop the early reading and math skills they need to be successful in school. . . . Head Start programs promote school readiness by enhancing the social-emotional and cognitive development of children through the provision of educational, health, nutritional, social and other services to enrolled children and families. They engage parents in their children‘s learning and help them in making progress toward their educational, literacy and employment goals. Significant emphasis is placed on the involvement of parents in the administration of local Head Start programs.' Head Start is administered by local grantees and public and private non-profit and for-profit agencies that must adhere to national program guidelines - the Head Start Performance Standards - to ensure that programs provide a wide array of comprehensive services for families and children. ...

The Head Start program offers services to children and families through a variety of program options. The most common of these, and concomitantly the highest proportion of the study sample, is a center-based program option in which children are enrolled in classroom settings and parents participate in at least two home visits annually. Three other options represented in the sample are: (1) a home-based program option in which staff work directly with children and parents primarily in the home on a weekly basis and also in at least twice monthly group socialization activities, (2) a family child care option, in which services to children and families are provided in a family child care setting, and (3) the combination program option that allows for a variety of combinations of center-based class sessions with home visits."

Michael Puma
et al.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
January 2010
Library Topic
Library Topic: Head Start

"Head Start's impressive public relations triumph should surprise no one. The program's boosters base their appeal on a sensible-sounding premise: if we can intervene early in poor children's lives, give them a 'head start' on developing into good students and well-adjusted teens, then many of them will not grow up to be welfare mothers, deadbeats, or criminals. With every social catastrophe averted, we'll save ourselves a lot of worry, trouble, and money. That is the essence of 'fiscal conservatism,' advocates say, since a little ‘public investment’ now will pay huge dividends in tax revenues and forgone social spending later.

Head Start's sales pitch works wonderfully. Business leaders like the investment rhetoric. Journalists love all the photo opportunities with cute, smiling kids. Teachers' union officials and other leaders of the education establishment relish the chance to extend their reach beyond kindergarten into the preschool years. Big-spending politicians enjoy touting a program that actually appears to work. Fiscal conservatives prefer Head Start's relatively low price tag (in comparison with the rest of the education establishment's agenda: higher teachers' salaries, smaller class sizes, bigger buildings, equalization of spending for small or rural school systems, and so on).

The pitch works, despite the fact that Head Start's major selling point--early intervention can prevent future dependence and delinquency--rests on several shaky foundations. First, it assumes that policymakers can draw sweeping national conclusions from studies of a few unique (and non-Head Start) preschool programs. Second, it assumes that children's futures are fundamentally malleable, that a brief outside intervention can make an indelible impact on most children's lives despite the continuing influence of both heredity and environment. And third, the Head Start thesis assumes not only that successful early intervention is possible but that government is an appropriate and effective provider of it.

All three of those propositions are false. Head Start's hucksters, all smiles and promises, have sold the public on a shiny prototype that bears little resemblance to what will actually be provided and, upon closer examination, is an empty shell with nothing under the hood. Before American policymakers sign anything, they'd better take a good look at what they're getting."

John Hood
Policy Analysis, No. 187
Cato Institute
December 18, 1992
Library Topic
Library Topic: Head Start

"Despite the paucity of evidence that Head Start has a long-term impact on children, there is no doubt that Head Start's medical, nutritional, and (to some extent) educational services provide immediate benefits to poor children. But it does not follow that a federal government program is needed to provide those services to preschoolers. A mix of private-sector, nonprofit, church, community group, and extended-family providers is a better way to provide such care for children, poor or not."

John Hood
Policy Analysis, No. 187
Cato Institute
December 18, 1992
Library Topic
Library Topic: Head Start

"There is no great mystery as to why government programs like Head Start and Smart Start don’t provide the long-term benefits they promise. Two or three years of preschool are unlikely to make an indelible impact on children who will spend far more time with their parents and in what are often mediocre (or worse) government schools. There is no magic wand that can wish away the effects of poverty, family breakup, and educational malpractice. There are no shortcuts in tackling these problems, nor are many of them amenable to government solutions at all."

John Hood
The Freeman, Vol. 49, Issue 6
Foundation for Economic Education
June 1999
Library Topic
Library Topic: Head Start

"…a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) study reported that, at the urging of local Head Start staff, some ineligible families misrepresent their income in order to enroll their children in the program. ... How much this misrepresentation (as opposed to changing family circumstances) contributes to over-income enrollment is unknown, but the bottom line is that when measured in the spring, about half the children enrolled in Head Start are not poor, and about 18 percent of the children served by Head Start are not even in the bottom 40 percent of families by income considering all children across both age groups. Obviously, some error is possible in the self-report, but the overall numbers are consistent with Head Start’s own enrollment figures. Head Start appears to serve many children who are not poor."

Ron Haskins
W. Steven Barnett
The Brookings Center on Children and Families and The National Institute for Early Education Research
September 2010
Library Topic
Library Topic: Head Start

"Judged strictly on the basis of impacts on child development at age 5, Head Start cannot be judged more than modestly effective. Head Start does not accomplish its most important goal because it has only small effects on learning and development at the beginning of school and, at least according to the recent national randomized trial, few discernible effects on academic abilities at the end of either kindergarten or first grade."

Ron Haskins
W. Steven Barnett
The Brookings Center on Children and Families and The National Institute for Early Education Research
September 2010
Library Topic
Library Topic: Head Start

"The federal government’s efforts to deliver on its promise, first made by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965, to help children from poor and minority families arrive on the doorstep of the public schools ready to learn has, for the most part, become stale and stagnant. Neither Early Head Start nor Head Start has delivered much, and the nation’s child care programs have been repeatedly shown to be of mediocre quality or worse. The real bottom line is that disadvantaged children are not achieving in the public schools as they should or could with proper help and preparation during the preschool years. Efforts to dramatically improve federal early childhood programs will succeed only if they are tied into ongoing, systematic, rigorous evaluations of alternative approaches."

Ron Haskins
W. Steven Barnett
The Brookings Center on Children and Families and The National Institute for Early Education Research
September 2010
Library Topic
Library Topic: Head Start
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Library Topic: Head Start

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Quote Page

Commentary or Blog Post

Referring to the major Health and Human Services report on the impact of Head Start, Coulson reports on yet another piece of information that digs the program into a deeper hole. According to Coulson, the two positive benefits...

Although many studies and researchers have tried to prove otherwise, "Head Start and other preschool programs aren’t 'miracle drugs' that can overcome the effects of poor parenting, poverty, and educational malpractice in the public schools." In this piece, John Hood exposes the many studies that "prove" Head Start is working and suggests that they are misguided and based on inapplicable...

This piece highlights the push to make Head Start teachers graduates of a four-year higher education institution. Besharov declares that this is unnecessary and will only serve to drive the program's governmental expenditures higher...

In this piece, Tanner and Zeigler point out the fact that Head Start continually receives more federal funds while consistently failing to produce effective results. The authors compare this situation to the state of welfare in its pre-reform years, arguing that "[t]he Senate should remember that block grants saved a failing welfare program. We should take a lesson...

This article chronicles some of the recent struggles Head Start has encountered in its quest for expansion and reauthorization. According to Besharov, many on the right side of the political spectrum believe that the program needs extensive reforms before...

The newly released report on Head Start's ineffectiveness and the fact that President Obama "raised spending on the program from $6.8 billion to $9.2 billion last year" causes Andrew Coulson to ponder the wisdom of continuing on with Head Start. Coulson discusses the highly scientific and trustworthy methods that were employed in the recent Health and Human...

This piece lays out the original intent of Head Start and gives several reasons showing why and how the program has failed. According to Olsen, a variety of research demonstrates the minimal results of early preschool programs. In light of this, Olsen declares that it is...

This piece describes President Obama's plan to increase spending and availability for the Head Start program. Declaring that the program is ineffective and a fiscal waste, IBD wonders why the President wants to promote the growth of other...

This piece discusses the funding increases that the 2009 stimulus bill provided to the Head Start program. Rather than completely bashing Head Start, the authors acknowledge that the program could have many positive benefits. These...

This piece describes how Head Start - traditionally geared toward four-year-olds - is gradually transitioning to serving three-year-olds as well. Guernsey elaborates on...

In this brief piece, Chester Finn presents his rationale for why Head Start needs serious reforms. According to Finn, many children are unprepared to start kindergarten, and thus Finn encourages the growth of preschool programs that provide more academic...

Cheryl Wetzstein designates Head Start as a "Sacred Cow" because of its largely untouchable nature even in the face of incriminating evidence. The incriminating evidence of which Wetzstein speaks is a recent study by the Health and Human Services Department which clearly demonstrates the minimal effects of Head Start. Wetzstein concludes her article by implying...

Chart or Graph

This chart compares the costs of Head Start childcare/preschool options with those of several other programs.

"Table 1 presents estimated and projected expenditures for the major federal early childhood programs."

This chart lays out the basic facts about the Head Start program. It also details the monetary cost for each child enrolled in Head Start.

"Thus, for all 41 outcome measures for kindergarten and the first grade, Head Start failed to have a measurable impact at the standard level of statistical significance."

Chart displays parent-reported health outcomes of children with access to Head Start.

"For the first grade, access to Head Start failed to have an impact on seven of the eight parent-reported measures of parenting. ..."

"For socio-emotional development, the 2010 study assessed 20 kindergarten outcomes and 20 first-grade outcomes for the four-year-old cohort. (See Table 2.)"

"From fiscal year (FY) 1965 to FY 2009, Congress spent $167.5 billion in 2009 dollars on Head Start. (See Chart 1.)"

Analysis Report White Paper

According to John Hood, the studies (such as the "Perry Preschool" study) used to insist that the Head Start program has positive benefits on young children are not germane to the issue. Hood declares that many of these studies were conducted on highly...

"Using all available government data, this paper calculates the actual, per-child costs of Head Start (including Early Head Start), child care provided under the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF), and prekindergarten/preschool programs. Besides being substantially higher than often reported by the relevant government agencies, the resulting cost estimates show dramatic...

"This study estimates the likely benefits of investment in a high quality, large-scale ECD program. Chapter 1 provides a brief overview of the benefits of high-quality ECD programs and reports the benefit cost ratios that have been calculated for four such programs: the Perry Preschool Project, the Prenatal/Early Infancy Project, the Abecedarian Early Childhood...

This piece reports on the findings from a recent study on the impacts of Head Start. According to the authors, Head Start had relatively little positive impact on those that were enrolled in it....

"This volume explores whether the nation’s early childhood programs are boosting child development and preparing children for schooling and proposes reforms that would improve the...

This paper studies some of the original Head Start students as adults in order to determine whether or not the program offers positive effects to children as they grow older. While the authors admit that their study is "non-experimental," they...

This paper looks at the effectiveness of government run preschool programs, one of which is Head Start. Schaeffer takes issue with the many studies which claim that preschool is beneficial to children, believing that many of those studies are flawed in their execution. In light of...

In this piece, Chester Finn weighs in on the issues surrounding universal preschool. One of the big elements of this issue has to do with the Head Start program. Finn assesses the program and opines that a more strident emphasis on standards and academic outcomes would be...

Chester Finn touches on the issue of Head Start in his book on American preschool policy. Finn explains the background and history of Head Start, along with the major...

Video/Podcast/Media

This clip presents two opposing viewpoints on the effectiveness of Head Start. Dan Lips of the Heritage Institute bases his opposition to the program on factual, government studies which show that Head Start offers minimal benefits to underprivileged children. Lily Eskelsen of the NEA, on the other hand, argues for Head Start based on her own personal...

This short clip provides a look into a Head Start classroom. The video concentrates on the success and opportunities Head Start has offered for one particular parent and child. This film acknowledges that a lot of Head Start research calls its effectiveness into question, but chooses to gloss over those facts and instead rely on anecdotal arguments to...

This brief clip gives the enrollment and monetary statistics of Head Start. The speaker declares that despite the large amount of time Head Start has been given to prove its effectiveness, its results are not impressive.

According to this video, "Head Start has been more or less untouchable for many years primarily because members of Congress are sympathetic to programs for children." Despite its untouchable nature, Head Start's results have not shown that the program is effective.

This video suggests that Head Start has had plenty of time to demonstrate its success. The speaker in this clip implies that the Head Start program may be a very good and easy place in which to cut wasteful government spending.

As the title suggests, this short clip offers several suggestions for improving federal preschool options.

Primary Document

This link provides a copy of the current Head Start legislation. According to this legislation, Head Start exists

"... to promote the school readiness of low-income children by enhancing their cognitive, social, and emotional development-
...

This recent and massive report is in large part one of the first in-depth and highly rigorous studies on the 45-year-old Head Start program. The compilers of this report sought to discover whether or not children in Head...

"During the 2005-2006 Head Start Program Year:

  • 12.2 percent of the Head Start enrollment consisted of children with disabilities, (mental retardation, health impairments, visual handicaps, hearing impairments, emotional disturbance, speech and language impairments, orthopedic handicaps and learning disabilities).

 

  • Nearly 48,000...

In her testimony before several legislative committees and subcommittees, Carlotta Joyner reports on the available research relevant to the impacts of Head Start. Joyner declares that while there are many reports and studies on Head Start's impact on disadvantaged children,...

The Head Start program originated under President Lyndon B. Johnson's "War on Poverty" agenda. This speech finds Johnson proudly presenting the new Head Start program and declaring that it was "one of the most constructive, and one of the most...

As "Co-Director of the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER)," Ellen Frede uses her testimony before Congress to encourage more federal funding and a greater cooperation between Head Start programs and other state operated preschools. Dr...

Due to the large amount of varied research on the Head Start program, the Department of Health and Human Services decided to consolidate the many findings into one large report. The report

"...concludes that children enrolled in Head Start enjoy significant immediate...

Books

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