Head Start Program gets a failing grade

May 6, 2014

I wish the Transform Rockford group great success. However, there is one area that needs rethinking: that of the Head Start Program. Started in 1965 (under President Lyndon Johnson), the idea of getting preschoolers ready for kindergarten via Head Start began as merely a summer program for disadvantaged children. This early childhood education was supposed to cover nutrition, social skills, health, well-being and so on. This quickly expanded into year-long programs for 3- and 4-year-olds. Today, this Head Start Program costs the taxpayers almost $9 billion!

Three years later, in 1968, I remember this well: studies were revealing that there was no difference between the now third-graders who had attended Head Start and those who did not. Yet, our Congress passed the Human Services Act in 1981 to expand the program. In 2007, the program was also adjusted to address the systemic poverty among lower incomes. Yet, at the same time, in 2007, reports declared that Head Start’s failures are sufficient to warrant its abolition.

In 1998, Congress ordered a study of the effectiveness. The New York Times stated that Head Start had “little meaningful impact” in a child’s later achievement.

In 2011, Time magazine said, “Head Start must be eliminated.” Be careful, earnest transformers, about pursuing this fruitless goal.

Alice Kaczmarek
Rockford

From the May 7-13, 2014, issue

4 Comments

  1. drglo

    May 7, 2014 at 6:09 pm

    It’s good not to trust “scientific results” about non-measurable or emotional qualities. Did any of these studies query the kids or parents? No! What got measured – dard facts, that is, test scores. But how do you unravel cause and effect when you’re not even measuring the right thing. Head Start was successf enough that middle-class parents soon fought to have their kids included. I taught Head Start classes in the 1960s and believe me. the classes worked for giving a head start to young kids from extremely low-income neighborhoods. The real issue is a money one; private industry would like a crack at that $9 billion now being spent on a still relevant need. Pre-school education works.

  2. chris

    May 8, 2014 at 2:13 pm

    The studies that were done didn’t include the most important aspect of our program, It is wonderful to learn measurable outcomes but what about the outcomes you can’t measure. Our program teachers social skills, who we are in the world and how we are to get along. We help children learn how to work together and when there is a conflict how to resolve it.We work with the whole family not just the child to try to help support and improve all of their lives.
    The studies performed are trying to measure the educational benefit it has for their future, does it state that the benefit is lost because the school systems don’t work to continue the support in the same manner.
    There has been a recent study that has come out with the long term health benefits Head Start has had on the child and family. With obesity becoming an epidemic, we should be designationg more funds for the Head Start Programs.
    It’s a wonderful program doing great things. I would encourage these politians to come and visit and see for themselves.

  3. Susan

    May 10, 2014 at 7:13 am

    Head Start is money well spent! Now what is needed are the supports to keep the growth going when the children reach Kindergarten and beyond. Children that come from families with lower incomes and education will continue to fall behind as the years go by unless they are provided with a super rich environment in school. All children no matter what their background need to be provided with as many opportunities as possible.

    One of the sad things is that often the children with behavior or cognitive issues do not get the same opportunities to experience enrichment activities. These are the children left home on field trips or going to assemblies or out in the community. This sends a sad message. But the social skills learned in Head Start no doubt helps the children have more of these opportunities.

  4. Almost Retired

    May 11, 2014 at 6:54 pm

    What is the difference between Head Start and the Early Childhood Development classes in the Rockford Public Schools? From MY experience in working with ALL the ECD in Rockford, the children are not being TAUGHT anything. We brushed their teeth because their parents don’t brush their teeth. You wouldn’t believe how many of these children come to school without having a bath so we washed their faces and hands. They are fed breakfast and lunch by the school district. There is an exorbitant amount of time playing and/or watching videos. It is an expensive babysitting service!! The parents are not held accountable for anything!! But EVERY single parent had smartphones they were talking on when they delivered their children to the classroom, hair done very exotically, nails and nicer cars than mine!!

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