Head Start's Broken Promise

Douglas J. Besharov
On the Issues
American Enterprise Institute
October 25, 2005

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 it can continue to receive taxpayer money, while many on the left believe that an increase in funding and a rise in income eligibility are the keys to making Head Start a success. Besharov presents several facts which shed light on the real state of Head Start.

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Library Topic: Head Start

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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...

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