Head Start: What Works Clearinghouse

7/2015

Report Summary

Effectiveness
Head Start was found to have potentially positive effects on general reading achievement and no discernible effects on mathematics achievement and social-emotional development for 3- and 4-year-old children.

Program Description
Head Start is a national, federally funded program that provides services to promote school readiness for children from birth to age 5 from predominantly low-income families. These services are provided to both children and their families and include education, health and nutrition, family engagement, and other social services.

Head Start program administrators are given the flexibility to design service delivery to be responsive to cultural, linguistic, and other contextual needs of local communities, leading to considerable variability in the services offered. Head Start service models also vary according to family needs, such that children and families may be served through center-based or family child care, home visits, or a combination of programs that operate full or half days for 8–12 months per year. This review focuses on the effects of Head Start programs designed for children ages 3–5. The Head Start programs include a variety of Head Start service models.

Research
The What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) identified one study of Head Start that both falls within the scope of the Early Childhood Education topic area and meets WWC group design standards. The study meets WWC group design standards without reservations, and no studies meet WWC group design standards with reservations. The study included 3,697 three- and four-year-old children in a nationally-representative sample.

The WWC considers the extent of evidence for Head Start on the school readiness outcomes of 3- and 4-year-old children to be small for three outcome domains—general reading achievement, mathematics achievement, and social-emotional development. There were no studies that meet standards in the five other domains, so this intervention report does not report on the effectiveness of Head Start for those domains.

This intervention report was prepared for the WWC by Mathematica Policy Research under contract ED-IES-13-C-0010.

Source: What Works Clearinghouse

Available at: http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/interventionreport.aspx

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