Head Start’s benefits fade quickly and disappear by third grade. Advocates say that’s because the quality of Head Start programs varies significantly.
“How much does program quality really impact children’s learning and development in Head Start classrooms? asks Kristen Loschert on EdCentral.
Not much, concludes a recent study by the Department of Health and Human Services.
Using data from the Head Start Impact Study (HSIS) and follow-up reports, researchers analyzed how differences in program quality influence children’s cognitive and social-emotional development. They found “little evidence that quality matters to impacts of Head Start,” according to the report.
“I was disappointed,” admits co-researcher Stephen Bell. “We’re not really very far ahead in making Head Start better or understanding which variants of Head Start are worth emphasizing now.”
Exposing children to academic activities was considered a mark of a high-quality program. However, “3-year-olds who received less exposure to academic activities . . . demonstrated better behavior outcomes” through kindergarten.
If even “quality” Head Start programs don’t produce lasting benefits, then why are we spending billions of dollars? Maybe something else — parenting support for single moms? — would make a difference.