Strengthening Head Start: What the Evidence Shows. Conclusions


Research shows that children in Head Start are falling behind and too often are not ready for school. In particular, those children who are the poorest and have the most risk factors do not enter kindergarten with the intellectual resources they need to succeed. Some of these children are being served by Head Start, but others are in state pre-kindergarten, childcare, and home-settings. From basic science on learning and development and from intervention studies we know a great deal about how to narrow the achievement gap for Head Start and other disadvantaged children before they enter kindergarten. Research tells us the knowledge and skills children need in language, pre-reading, and pre-mathematics, and the social and emotional competencies they must have to succeed in school. The President believes that the Head Start program must be strengthened and provide more emphasis on pre-reading, language, pre-mathematics and other cognitive skills, while continuing to promote childrens health and social and emotional competence as part of school readiness. Research tells us that early childhood education implemented with qualified and well-trained teachers can make a significant and meaningful impact on the development of childrens knowledge and skills, their achievement in school, and success in life.

Everyone agrees that fragmentation is a problem and that uncoordinated approaches to offering early childhood education and care are preventing children from accessing the educational instruction and services they need to be school ready. We know that states are beginning to offer state pre-kindergarten programs that hold promise for producing positive results for children, successfully coordinating early childhood programs, and creating seamless systems that align early childhood programs with the public schools. There is a dire need to apply the evidence available to us and build on the good progress states are making in reducing fragmentation, coordinating funding streams and services, and aligning early childhood programs with the public schools.

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