No head start from Head Start

Patrick Gibbons

*The U.S. government has spent about $100 billion on Head Start since 1965. The results could have been duplicated by simply burning $100 billion in cash.

Health and Human Services finally released the report on Head Start, the pre-school program for low-income students. The report shows, as many predicted, that Head Start has no lasting benefits on students’ learning abilities.

Dr. Jay P. Greene states,

The study used a gold-standard, random assignment design and had a very large nationally representative sample. This was a well done study (even if it mysteriously took more than 3 years after data collection was complete to release the results).

For students who were randomly assigned to Head Start or not at the age of 4, the researchers collected 19 measures of cognitive impacts at the end of kindergarten and 22 measures when those students finished 1st grade. Of those 41 measures only 1 was significant and positive. The remaining 40 showed no statistically significant difference. The one significant effect was for receptive vocabulary, which showed no significant advantage for Head Start students after kindergarten but somehow re-emerged at the end of 1st grade.

Dr. Greene concludes that “The long and short of it is that the government has a giant and enormously expensive pre-school program that has made basically no difference for the students who participate in it.”