Education

U.S. To Pilot ‘Head Start’ For Infants 0-3

By Laura Miller — April 05, 1995 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The federal government is gearing up to launch a nationwide research project that will test the effectiveness and feasibility of implementing a kind of “Head Start” program for children from birth to age 3.

The announcement of the effort followed the release last week of two independent studies--one by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and one by the University of Miami--that depicted the depth of the crisis among the at-risk population the project will target.

Babies born to mothers with less than 12 years of formal education--nearly one-fourth of all American children--are four times more likely to become mentally retarded than children with better-educated mothers, the studies found.

Starting in 1997, Project begin will provide intensive day-care services to several thousand healthy infants who are at risk of becoming mentally retarded in hopes of improving their cognitive function.

The effort will identify 5,000 children in 10 cities whose mothers did not graduate from high school. The project sites have not been chosen.

Half the children will then participate in a previously tested early-intervention program from birth to age 3, while the other half will not. The C.D.C. will follow the progress of both groups into early adulthood.

“I believe this nation can make a difference in the lives of children by helping to facilitate their early health and learning environments,” Dr. David Satcher, the executive director of the C.D.C., wrote in announcing the project in last week’s American Journal of Public Health. The journal also published the C.D.C. study.

Dr. Edward Brann, a physician and the director of Project begin, said it “will determine whether a particular early-intervention model from birth to age 3 is effective and at what cost.”

The C.D.C. would transfer its authority over the project to another agency if a policy decision were ever made to implement a widespread federal program for infants, he added.

Making a Difference

Mr. Brann said the C.D.C.'s working hypothesis is that intervention makes a significant difference in the children’s success later in life.

During Project begin’s first year, Mr. Brann said, experts will make weekly home visits to mothers, focusing on such factors as positive parent-child interaction and cognitive development. During the second two years, home visits will continue, but the children will also be enrolled in a stimulating, full-day, year-round child-development center.

Rebecca Fewell, the director of the University of Miami’s Debbie Institute for disabled children and a Project begin planner, also said she expected results. “If you get in and start working with babies born to mothers with less than 12 years of education, you can probably make a difference,” she said.

The project is reminiscent of the High/Scope Perry Preschool Project, which enrolled a much smaller group of 3- and 4-year-olds in a high-quality preschool. Researchers then tracked the children into adulthood, comparing them with a control group that did not participate in a preschool program.

Though he had not seen either study, or the project proposal, David P. Weikart, the president of the High/Scope Educational Research Foundation in Ypsilanti, Mich., said the project sounded intriguing.

“My overall reaction is that it seems like an interesting thing,” he said.

But he cautioned that the researchers on the new project should consider the problems encountered in previous studies. Some early-intervention programs that stopped at age 3 have failed to yield long-term educational or social benefits, he said.

Citing the Ford Foundation’s Fair Start program from the early 1980’s, Mr. Weikart noted that the program improved children’s health and nutrition but did not show any other long-term gains.

Researchers attempting such a large-scale venture “will have to start from the new plateau,” he said.

Success, he added, will depend on the details: the services offered to children, the assessment methods, and the experience of the researchers in the field of human services.

Other Findings

The C.D.C. and University of Miami studies will help shape the research project.

Though the results were not surprising, said one of the authors of the C.D.C. report, they confirmed and quantified the strong link between maternal education and mental retardation.

Dr. Marshalyn Yeargin-Allsopp, an epidemiologist, added that the C.D.C. study will also help dispel the notion that mentally retarded people have genetic disorders. In most cases, she said, people who grow up to be mildly retarded are born healthy.

The C.D.C. study examined the records of 1,074 mentally retarded 10-year-olds, and compared them with 650 children with normal I.Q.'s.

It revealed a higher prevalence of mild mental retardation among black children than among white children, and attributed half of the difference to the generally lower economic status and education level of black mothers.

The authors said the remaining difference could be caused by the higher prevalence of certain medical conditions and environmental hazards in the black population, such as anemia, diabetes, and lead exposure.

Links With Education

Keith Scott, a behavioral psychologist, reviewed the birth and school records of 30,000 Dade County 10-year-olds for the University of Miami study.

He found that low-birthweight babies whose mothers also had less than 12 years of schooling were eight times more likely to become mentally retarded. Iron deficiency in such a child increased the risk of mental retardation by another third.

The study also showed that the presence of a father during a child’s infancy can have a profound effect on cognitive development. Children whose fathers were not listed on their birth records were 1.5 times more likely to need special education later.

A version of this article appeared in the April 05, 1995 edition of Education Week as U.S. To Pilot ‘Head Start’ For Infants 0-3


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

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.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
What’s Next for Teaching and Learning? Key Trends for the New School Year
The past 18 months changed the face of education forever, leaving teachers, students, and families to adapt to unprecedented challenges in teaching and learning. As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and
Content provided by Instructure
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.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
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.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

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 Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP
Education Massachusetts National Guard to Help With Busing Students to School
250 guard personnel will be available to serve as drivers of school transport vans, as districts nationwide struggle to hire enough drivers.
1 min read
Massachusetts National Guard soldiers help with logistics in this Friday, April 17, 2020 file photo, at a food distribution site outside City Hall, in Chelsea, Mass. Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday, Sept. 13, 2021, activated the state's National Guard to help with busing students to school as districts across the country struggle to hire enough drivers.
Massachusetts National Guard soldiers help with logistics in this Friday, April 17, 2020 file photo, at a food distribution site outside City Hall, in Chelsea, Mass.
Michael Dwyer/AP
Education FDA: ‘Very, Very Hopeful’ COVID Shots Will Be Ready for Younger Kids This Year
Dr. Peter Marks said he is hopeful that COVID-19 vaccinations for 5- to 11-year-olds will be underway by year’s end. Maybe sooner.
4 min read
Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research in the Food and Drug Administration, testifies during a Senate health, education, labor, and pensions hearing to examine an update from federal officials on efforts to combat COVID-19 on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 11, 2021. On Friday, Sept. 10, 2021, Marks urged parents to be patient, saying the agency will rapidly evaluate vaccines for 5- to 11-year-olds as soon as it gets the needed data.
Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research in the Food and Drug Administration, testifies during a Senate health, education, labor, and pensions hearing to examine an update from federal officials on efforts to combat COVID-19 on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 11, 2021.
Jim Lo Scalzo/AP