The results of the Head Start Impact Study show conclusively that Head Start works. The study repeats what the Head Start community across the nation clearly understands and that is that Head Start children show definitive gains in important cognitive abilities and meaningful social skills during their tenure in Head Start.
The study repeats past observations and research. What the study makes clear is that however ready a child might be for learning and advancement as they leave Head Start and enter public school, the cognitive gains so evident in Head Start are less evident two years later.
Head Start feeds its children into some very good public schools in the nation and absolutely into every single of the worst functioning schools in the nation. The results shared in the Impact Study clearly indicate that the gains a child makes in Head Start – all of which are clearly documented in this research – are not sustained over a span of two or more years in the public school environment. What is clear from this study is the need for deepened partnerships between Head Start and public schools on behalf of the most-needy young children in our country.
Among the many contributions to the success of Head Start, is the skill of Head Start staff in working with families in poverty and their young children. This specialized skill must be carried into ongoing partnerships with the schools to help them sustain the gains children make in Head Start, and clearly these skills with families in poverty are necessary in all public schools serving low income families, if school reform is to succeed.
Head Start succeeds because of a number of unique approaches. The program has a strong commitment to working closely with parents as their child’s first teacher, and the Head Start emphasis on health, mental health and nutrition combine to support learning and a strong foundation of social-emotional stability in at-risk children. It is critical that these factors be carried forward into early elementary school experiences.
Head Start works, the Impact Study confirms that fact. We must now focus on working with public schools to ensure that the gains made in Head Start will be sustained through the early years in elementary school.
Post contributed by Barbara Haxton, Executive Director of The Ohio Head Start Association, Inc. (OHSAI).