Fox News figures are reviving the myth that the Head Start education program is a failure, in light of reports that the program may lose funding. In fact, research shows the program benefits disadvantaged children in that it has a positive impact both early and later on in their lives.
Head Start Program May Lose Millions In Funding From Automatic Government Cuts
CNNMoney: "Come March 1, Head Start Stands To Lose More Than $400 Million Of Its Nationwide Funding." CNNMoney reported that Head Start could lose more than $400 million of its nationwide funding if automatic spending cuts scheduled for March 1 take effect:
Come March 1, Head Start stands to lose more than $400 million of its nationwide funding.
For 20 toddlers hoping to enroll in pre-kindergarten programs run by Kids Central in southwest Virginia, it means no preschool. It also means that one teacher, two teaching aides, one bus driver and one cook will lose their jobs.
Some of the parents may have to quit jobs to watch their children, according to Darrell Edwards, executive director of the Norton, Va.-based program, which has 86 children on its waiting list.
The scenario will be repeated in thousands of early school programs for low income families, if Congress doesn't find a way to avert $85 billion in federal budget cuts that are slated to go into effect in less than two weeks. The cuts will stop 70,000 kids from entering Head Start programs around the country this year, according to the White House. [CNNMoney, 2/19/13]
Fox Claims Head Start Program "Doesn't Work"
Tucker Carlson: "If You Can't Cut Head Start, You're Not Serious About Cutting Anything." On Hannity, Fox News contributor and Daily Caller founder Tucker Carlson said, "We know an awful lot about how effective it is. And the evidence is in: it doesn't work. It produces no measureable change in the education levels of kids. If you can't cut Head Start, you're not serious about cutting anything. Period." [Fox News, Hannity, 2/19/13]
Stuart Varney: "Why Expand An Expensive And Some Say Ineffective Program?" Discussing President Obama's call to expand Head Start, Fox Business host Stuart Varney asked, "Why expand an expensive and some say ineffective program?" From Fox & Friends:
STEVE DOOCY (co-host): But despite that program's $8 billion price tag, a new government report says it doesn't actually work as well as those on the left might say, so says Stuart Varney. Good morning to you.
VARNEY: Good morning, Steve. The question this morning really is, look, why expand an expensive and some say ineffective program? First of all, look at the cost of this thing. $9,000 per child, per year. That is a lot of money. 900,000 children enrolled in this. $8 billion is as an annual cost, according to the Cato Institution, OK. And the president wants to expand that, bring in more people at higher cost.
Now comes the criticism. A Health and Human Services-sponsored study says look, this early education and this Head Start program has no clear impact on language and literacy while the children are in Head Start. Plus, there is no noticeable effect on these children after 3rd grade. So if there is any improvement while they're in Head Start, it doesn't last after 3rd grade. So why are we planning to expand at significant cost, an expensive program that's under fire? Why are we doing that?
DOOCY: Well, the president just made the case, that if we give these youngsters the tools going forward, they will have better lives. But you've painted a picture where that doesn't sound necessarily true. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 2/19/13]
Bill O'Reilly Argued Head Start Is A "Foolish Public School Program" That Doesn't Work. Discussing Head Start, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly suggested that the program "is not academically effective," saying, "As a former high school teacher myself, I know the feds waste an enormous amount of money on foolish public school programs." He added: "I mean, it sounds so noble. Let's spend more on education. But the bureaucrats rarely care about implementing programs that actually work. The main point here is that President Obama is not all that interested in what works, because his educational agenda is tied into his social justice agenda. He firmly believes that America is not -- is not a fair place." [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 2/18/13]
For more examples of media outlets falsely claiming the Head Start program is ineffective, click here.
Head Start Program Provides More Than Education To Low-Income Americans
The Head Start Program Provides "Comprehensive Services ... Which Include Health, Nutrition, Social Services And Other Services." According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, "Head Start is a federal program that promotes the school readiness of children ages birth to 5 from low-income families by enhancing their cognitive, social and emotional development. Head Start programs provide comprehensive services to enrolled children and their families, which include health, nutrition, social services and other services determined to be necessary by family needs assessments, in addition to education and cognitive development services. [U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, accessed 2/19/13]
In 2011, Head Start Programs Served 1,142,000 Children And Pregnant Women. According to a Head Start fact sheet, "In 2011, Head Start programs throughout the country served 1,142,000 children ages birth to 5 and pregnant women cumulatively throughout the program year," and "Head Start served a diverse group of children, families, and pregnant women. Nearly 40 percent identified themselves as Hispanic/Latino and almost 30 percent were Black/African American." [U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, accessed 2/20/13]
Head Start Program Has Had Positive Impacts On The Most At-Risk Students
HHS Study: Children From High Risk Households "Demonstrated Sustained Cognitive Impacts." A Health and Human Services study found that children from children from high risk households "demonstrated sustained cognitive impacts":
At the end of 3rd grade, the most striking sustained subgroup finding was related to children from high risk households. For this subgroup, children in the 3-year old cohort demonstrated sustained cognitive impacts across all the years from pre-K through 3rd grade. At the end of 3rdgrade, the Head Start children from high risk households showed favorable impacts on the ECLS-K Reading Assessment, the WJIII Letter-Word Identification, and the teacher reported reading/language arts skills. This was in contrast to the impacts for children in lower and moderate risk households, for whom there were no impacts. [U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, October 2012]
HHS Study: Children With Family Stress "Were Found To Have Multiple Positive Impacts On The Direct Student Assessments Over Time." A Health and Human Services study on the impact of Head Start found that "children who started out with more familial stressors than their peers were found to have multiple positive impacts on the direct student assessments over time":
Those children who started out with more familial stressors than their peers were found to have multiple positive impacts on the direct student assessments over time. Also, among the 3-year-old cohort, children of parents with no reported depressive symptoms experienced sustained benefits of Head Start in the cognitive domain through the end of 3rd grade and in the social-emotional and parenting practices domain through the end of 1st grade.
Among the 4-year-olds, the subgroups that demonstrated sustained benefits are children of parents who reported mild depressive symptoms, severe depressive symptoms, and Black children. Head Start children of parents reporting mild depressive symptoms demonstrated favorable cognitive impacts through the end of 3rd grade. This was in contrast to those with no, moderate, or severe depressive symptoms. However, favorable impacts were reported only at the end of the Head Start year for parents with severe depressive symptoms. In the parenting and social-emotional domains, predominantly favorable parent-reported impacts were sustained for children of parents with severe depressive symptoms. Black children experienced favorable impacts in the social-emotional domain at the end of kindergarten through 3rd grade as reported by teachers, parents, and the child self-report. [U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, October 2012]
Head Start Group Executive Director: HHS Study Found That Head Start Does Its Job Of Getting "At-Risk Children Ready For Kindergarten." In a Reuters op-ed, Yasmina Vinci, executive director of the National Head Start Association, wrote that the HHS study shows that Head Start "gets at-risk children ready for kindergarten":
One question the HHS study does answer definitively is whether Head Start does its job. The program gets at-risk children ready for kindergarten in every aspect the study measured. After one year in Head Start, children showed gains in vocabulary, letter-word identification, mathematics and social-emotional development compared with peers. In addition, parents involved with the program used more appropriate discipline and spent more time engaging in literacy activities with their children.
These findings affirm the Head Start model in design and in practice. Head Start's success over the decades has been built on evidence-based practices. The model, informed by programs like the Perry Preschool, an influential project that tracked children for decades, is constantly adapting -- using the best available science and teaching techniques to meet the needs of local communities. [Reuters, 12/27/12]
Head Start Program Participants More Likely To Find Success Later In Life
HighScope Educational Research Foundation: Study Shows That Head Start Helped Participants "Achieve Greater School Success And Avoid Crime As They Grew Up." The HighScope Educational Research Foundation reported that "a long-term study shows that a Head Start program of the 1970s, which was part of the National Planned Variation Head Start Project, helped participating young children achieve greater school success and avoid crime as they grew up":
Despite doubts cast by previous studies of Head Start, a long-term study shows that a Head Start program of the 1970s, which was part of the National Planned Variation Head Start Project, helped participating young children achieve greater school success and avoid crime as they grew up. Earlier studies of the federal Head Start preschool program for low-income children and families, which began in 1965, found short-lived effects on children's test scores, prompting the government to make program improvements.
Into Adulthood: A Study of the Effects of Head Start, by Sherri Oden, Lawrence Schweinhart, and David Weikart with Sue Marcus and Yu Xie (2000), presents encouraging findings from a 17-year follow-up study of 622 young adults 22 years old in Colorado and Florida, who were born in poverty and did or did not attend Head Start as young children. The researchers located and interviewed 77 percent of the original sample of children.
The study found evidence of important effects on school success and crime. For females (but not males) at one study site after adjusting for background differences, only about one-fourth as many Head Start participants as nonparticipants (5% versus 19%) failed to obtain a high school or GED diploma, and only one-third as many (5% versus 15%) were arrested for crimes. [HighScope Educational Research Foundation, accessed 2/19/13]
Different Groups Saw Distinct Positive Outcomes From Head Start Program Later In Life. From a study examining long-term impacts of the Head Start program on different groups of children by Eliana Garces, Duncan Thomas, and Janet Currie of the Department of Economics at UCLA:
Four indicators of economic and social success in adulthood are examined. We find that, for whites, participation in Head Start is associated with a significantly increased probability of completing high school and attending college as well as elevated earnings in one's early twenties. African Americans who participated in Head Start are significantly less likely to have been charged or convicted of a crime. We also find suggestive evidence that African-American males who attended Head Start are more likely than their siblings to have completed high school. Finally, we uncover some evidence of positive spillovers from older children who attended Head Start to their younger siblings, particularly with regard to criminal behavior. [National Bureau of Economic Research, December 2000]
Head Start Participants Are More Likely To Graduate From High School And Attempt At Least One Year Of College. From a study examining long-term effects of the Head Start program by David Deming of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University:
Head Start participants are about 8.5 percentage points more likely to graduate from high school, 6 percentage points more likely to have attempted at least one year of college, 7 percentage points less likely to be idle, and 7 percentage points less likely to be in poor health. [American Economic Journal, July 2009]
Head Start Program Benefits Children, As Well As Parents
Mortality Rates Decreased In Head Start Students Ages Five To Nine. A 2006 study by Jens Ludwig and Douglas L. Miller, both of the National Bureau of Economic Research, found "that there appears to be a large drop in mortality rates to children five to nine years of age over the period 1973-83 due to causes addressed as part of Head Start's health services":
Our main finding is that there appears to be a large drop in mortality rates to children five to nine years of age over the period 1973-83 due to causes addressed as part of Head Start's health services. Our estimates imply that a 50 to 100 percent increase in Head Start funding reduces mortality rates from relevant causes by 33 to 50 percent of the control mean, enough to drive mortality rates from these causes in the treatment counties down to about the national average. [Georgetown University, 4/23/06]
Head Start Programs Helped Parents At Risk Of Depression. From a Department of Health and Human Services Report from June 2002:
Among parents at risk of depression in the eight research sites that measured depression at baseline, Early Head Start parents reported significantly less depression than control-group parents when children were 3, and Early Head Start demonstrated a favorable pattern of impacts on children's social-emotional development and parenting outcomes among these families. Although Early Head Start was also effective with children whose parents did not report symptoms of depression, the impacts on families of parents with depressive symptoms are notable, as that is a group that other programs have found difficult to serve. [U.S Department of Health and Human Services, June 2002]
Head Start Programs Helped Students Acquire Health Insurance, Receive Immunizations, And Receive Continuous Medical And Dental Care At Higher Rates. From the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:
[U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Head Start fact sheet, accessed 2/19/13]
Study Found That Head Start Increases Parents' Involvement With Their Children
NY Times: Study Found That Head Start Increased "Parents' Involvement With Their Children Both During And After The Program."The New York Times reported on a study by Alexander M. Gelber, an assistant professor of economics at University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, and Adam Isen, a doctoral candidate in applied economics at the Wharton School, which found that Head Start increases parents' involvement "both during and after the program":
Alexander M. Gelber, an assistant professor of economics at University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, and Adam Isen, a doctoral candidate in applied economics at the Wharton School, found that when children took part in Head Start, their parents read more regularly to them, practiced writing the alphabet, played math games, kept notes of their children's progress and took their children to art galleries or museums more than the parents of the children who were not enrolled in the program.
The study also found that parents of Head Start children set rules about activities like television watching more than the parents of children not in Head Start. And fathers who didn't live with their children visited them more often once they were enrolled in Head Start.
Professor Gelber and Mr. Isen found that the data showed that even after the children had moved on from the Head Start program, their parents continued to be more involved in their out-of-school education and development than parents of children who had not enrolled in the program. Fathers who lived separately from their children visited them an average of one more day a month than the fathers of children who had not enrolled in Head Start.
Among the possible reasons parents might be more involved with children in Head Start, the researchers said: the program actively encourages parents to volunteer in the centers, and parents may pick up tips there; parents believe their children have been offered a special advantage and therefore invest more time in them; the children are more pleasant to be around because Head Start helps curb behavioral problems; the parents have more energy and time to focus on certain activities because they effectively gain free child care through Head Start. [The New York Times, 3/2/12]