Head Start's goal is “to boost the school readiness of low-income children.” The editorial “Those Head Start cuts: The problem is?” (Aug. 24 and TribLIVE.com) cites a study that concluded Head Start met that goal by significantly improving preschool outcomes. The editorial points out that when assessed at third grade, the general finding was that non-Head Start participants caught up to the Head Start participants. An important exception was that the positive impact of Head Start on young children from high-risk families was sustained through third grade.
Research has also documented long-term benefits from Head Start in school and afterward. Those benefits include an increase in school completion, greater earnings for Head Start alumni and less crime.
The editorial concludes that Head Start programs are a failure, deceive parents and should be eliminated because of the third-grade performance findings.
Head Start parents probably consider Head Start successful, knowing their children are more likely to be ready for school, graduate from high school, earn more money when they go to work and are less likely to commit crimes. Rather than feeling deceived, these parents probably lament the sequestration cuts to Head Start while the editorial applauds those Head Start cuts.
The writer is policy initiatives director in the University of Pittsburgh's Office of Child Development.
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