Education Letter to the Editor

Head Start Report: Response to a Critic

March 02, 2010 1 min read

To the Editor:

Your online article “Head Start Study Finds Brief Learning Gains” (Jan. 14, 2010) provides inaccurate information based on an interview with Craig T. Ramey, a professor of health studies and psychiatry at Georgetown University. As the authors of the report discussed, “Head Start Impact Study,” we would like to set the record straight.

According to the article, Mr. Ramey said that “the study reports only effect sizes and doesn’t provide information about the performance of children on average.” It appears that he read only the executive summary. Throughout the report, average child performance on cognitive, social-emotional, health, and parenting outcomes (as well as effect sizes) is provided. In addition, online tables give detailed information on average child performance for the outcomes measured in the study.

You also report that Mr. Ramey said that “it is not possible to tell by the study whether Head Start students are ‘humming along at the national average’ in terms of their cognitive learning, or if they are ‘at the 10th percentile’ on standardized measures of cognitive learning.” For discussion and illustration, selected percentiles are presented in both the executive summary and Chapter 4 of the final report. Chapter 4 also states that the percentiles for the standardized measures are available in the technical report. Both the final report and the technical report are available online.

It is our hope that readers will use the “Head Start Impact Study” final report as a basis for future research exploring the strengths and weaknesses of the Head Start program. This is a complex study, and to use it effectively requires a thorough review and understanding of both the final and technical reports.

Michael Puma

Chesapeake Research Associates

Annapolis, Md.

Stephen Bell

Abt Associates

Bethesda, Md.

Ronna Cook

Ronna Cook Associates

Bethesda, Md.

Camilla Heid


Rockville, Md.

A version of this article appeared in the March 03, 2010 edition of Education Week as Head Start Report: Response to a Critic