Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

New study by HHS: Head Start early childhood education programs don’t work

This story is from last month, but I wanted to post about a government study that evaluated the government’s own Head Start early childhood education programs.

Fox News reports on the study.

Excerpt:

Head Start is an $8 billion per year federal preschool program, designed to improve the kindergarten readiness of low-income children. Since its inception in1965, taxpayers have spent more than $180 billion on the program.

But HHS’ latest Head Start Impact Study found taxpayers aren’t getting a good return on this “investment.”  According to the congressionally-mandated report, Head Start has little to no impact on cognitive, social-emotional, health, or parenting practices of its participants. In fact, on a few measures, access to the program actually produced negative effects.

The HHS’ scientifically-rigorous study tracked 5,000 children who were randomly assigned to either a group receiving Head Start services or a group that did not participate in Head Start. It followed their progression from ages three or four through the end of third grade.  The third-grade evaluation is a continuation to HHS’ first-grade study, which followed children through the end of first grade.

The first-grade evaluation found that any benefits the children may have accrued while in the Head Start program had dissipated by the time they reached first grade.

The study also revealed that Head Start failed to improve the literacy, math and language skills of the four year-old cohort and had a negative impact on the teacher-assessed math ability of the three-year-old cohort.

More here from the Heritage Foundation:

In a newly released paper, Heritage’s Lindsey Burke and David Muhlhausen discuss the findings, summarized as follows:

  • Cognitive development. Of 11 measures of cognitive ability—including reading, language, and math ability—access to Head Start made no difference for either three- or four-year-old students on any outcomes.
  • Social-emotional development. Of 19 measures of social-emotional development—such as aggression, hyperactive behavior, and conduct problems—for the three-year-old cohort, access to Head Start was connected to a slight benefit in “social skills and positive approaches to learning,” as reported by parents, but it had no impact on any of the other outcomes. For four-year-olds, Head Start was associated with a small decrease in aggressive behavior but also appeared to be significantly linked to harmful impacts, including higher teacher reports of “an unfavorable impact on the incidence of children’s emotional symptoms,” as well as poorer peer relations.
  • Child health outcomes. Of five measures of health outcomes, Head Start made no difference for either group, including no impact on “receipt of dental care, health insurance coverage, and overall child health status being excellent or good.”
  • Parenting outcomes. Of the 10 measures of parental outcomes, Head Start appeared to have only one benefit for each group. Parents of the three-year-old cohort reported higher levels of authoritative parenting, and parents of the four-year-old cohort reported spending more time with their children.

After five decades, Head Start continues to default on its aim to boost school readiness. In addition to the program’s overall ineffectiveness, there are government reports of fraud in the program. Yet Head Start continues to receive billions of taxpayer dollars every year. Since Head Start began, more than $180 billion taxpayer dollars have been spent to fund it—and Congress is currently contemplating allocating millions of extra dollars to the program through the supplemental aid package for Hurricane Sandy victims.

The article also points out how the HHS sat on the report for 4 years – they finished their data collection in 2008. I found it interesting that Obama wants to spend MORE money on these programs, even though they don’t work.

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One Response

  1. [...] start doesn’t work. Related: Universal pre-school is a bad [...]

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