Leadership Symposium Early Bird Deadline Approaching | Join K-12 leaders nationwide for three days of empowering strategies, networking, and inspiration! Discounted pricing ends March 1. Register today.
Education Letter to the Editor

The Head Start Study: A Closer Examination

March 30, 2010 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

To the Editor:

Isabel V. Sawhill and Jon Baron’s implication that the recent “Head Start Impact Study” showed few positive effects from the preschool program requires further examination (“We Need a New Start for Head Start,” Commentary, March 3, 2010).

The report states unequivocally that the Head Start children outperformed the control group children by every single measure the study employed. This occurred even though the research was structured in a way that made such superior performance difficult to achieve to a statistically significant degree.

Of the children randomly selected as the Head Start group, 15 percent of the 3-year-olds and 20 percent of the 4-year-olds did not join the program. Among children in the control group, 60 percent attended preschool programs during the study’s first year; 17 percent of the 3-year-olds and 14 percent of the 4-year-olds were actually in Head Start programs outside the study. (The report gives findings both with and without adjustments for no-show and crossover children.) Control-group children also spent four to five more hours each week in preschool than did the Head Start group.

Despite the fact that the Head Start children did so well while they were in the program, the control group did catch up by the end of 1st grade. It is important to learn the reasons for this. One seems clear: The 3-year-olds in the control group had an extra year before they began kindergarten, during which 50 percent of them attended Head Start. Thus, in actuality, they were Head Start children in 1st grade, even though the study still considered them as being in the control group. Another possible reason is that many districts give extra attention to children who are less ready for school, and these efforts may partly explain why the control group caught up.

Rigorous, peer-reviewed studies over many years have shown that Head Start has brought about lifelong benefits to children and their communities. We can improve, however, and we look forward to learning ways to do so from the type of evidence-based studies Ms. Sawhill and Mr. Baron suggest.

Yasmina Vinci

Executive Director

National Head Start Association

Alexandria, Va.

A version of this article appeared in the March 31, 2010 edition of Education Week as The Head Start Study: A Closer Examination


Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Science of Reading: Emphasis on Language Comprehension
Dive into language comprehension through a breakdown of the Science of Reading with an interactive demonstration.
Content provided by Be GLAD
English-Language Learners Webinar English Learners and the Science of Reading: What Works in the Classroom
ELs & emergent bilinguals deserve the best reading instruction! The Reading League & NCEL join forces on best practices. Learn more in our webinar with both organizations.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated: February 7, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: January 31, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
9 min read
Education Briefly Stated: January 17, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
9 min read
Education In Their Own Words The Stories That Stuck With Us, 2023 Edition
Our newsroom selected five stories as among the highlights of our work. Here's why.
4 min read
102523 IMSE Reading BS
Adria Malcolm for Education Week