Monday, August 13, 2012

What's Wrong with Head Start

         Liberals often tout the Head Start program as a sterling example of a successful government program.  When they do so in your hearing, say this:
         While Head Start can boast that some children show some progress after a year or two in the program, those children remain well below the national norm.  Even those modest outcomes vanish once Head Start children enter our catastrophically bad urban public schools.  Once in the public school system, Head Start students quickly lose any superiority they had over the disadvantaged children who did not attend Head Start.
         We know this because, in 1998 under President Clinton, Congress demanded that the Department of Health and Human Services conduct a rigorous national evaluation of the program, the first evaluation of its kind on that scale.  That study discovered that Head Start produced little meaningful or enduring impact.  For example, even after spending months in Head Start, 4-year-olds could identify only two more letters of the alphabet than children from similar backgrounds not in the program.  Three-year-olds were worse.  They could identify only one and a half more letters on average.  That study revealed virtually no gain for Head Start students in math, in oral comprehension, in motivation, and in interaction with both peers and teachers.
         At the same time as that study was conducted, Congress decided to fund a significant increase in Head Start enrollment.  They intended for enrollment to grow by 22 percent, but it grew by only 2 percent, or less than 1/10 of the projected total.  Parents weren’t going for it.  Who would?
         Think about this:  If you spent more than $22,000 per year for college, you’d expect a commensurate return on your investment.  If, for all that money, the college you selected for your son or daughter failed to deliver the educational goods, you’d send your student elsewhere, and rightly so.  That is exactly how much the government now invests to keep a child in Head Start full time for a year.  Clearly, lack of money is not the problem.  Head Start gets plenty of money.  We spend billions of dollars on it every year, with little more to show for it than if we had simply flushed it away, which is, in effect, exactly what we have done.  By first grade, whatever benefits the program produces are already dried up.
         According to David Muhlhausen, of the Heritage Foundation, what I have said above about Head Start has been too lenient and too optimistic.  He argues that the statistical measurements employed in the study were too lax and showed improvement where little or none actually existed.  Evaluated more rigorously, that study evidenced no statistically measurable impact on any of the eleven educational measures taken.
         I, for one, would have expected far more and far better from a program into which we have poured upwards of $100 billion since 1965.
          The gains are small.  They might be imaginary.  They evaporate quickly.  They cost over $100 billion.
         Still, liberals call this a success.
         When it comes to federal programs, liberals are far too easily pleased.


Ilíon said...

"The gains are small. They might be imaginary. They evaporate quickly. They cost over $100 billion.

Still, liberals call this a success.

When it comes to federal programs, liberals are far too easily pleased.

It all depends upon one's metric, whether a thing is or is not "a success".

For "liberals", the relevant metric is that vast sums of tax monies be directed out of your and my pockets and into the pockets of reliably Democratic voters.

For "liberals", the stated purpose of any government program is beside the point. For "liberals", the only real point to a government program is that it takes money from the (silent/overlooked) non-organized many and gives it to the (noisy) organized few.

fifthofanickel said...

The program is bad because the idea is bad. Three and four year olds don't need to be in school. They need to be home playing, being nurtured by their parent, learning to be loving, kind, and empathetic to others, how to be part of the the human family by being part of their own family.

Education works best when children are ready for it and for the vast majority of children, three and four is too early. Any success over that two year period could be achieved a few years down the road in a few months, even weeks. Head Start or any education based childcare program is such a waste of a good early childhood, not to mention our financial resources.

Dr. Michael Bauman said...

Precisely so, and for the reasons you named. Thanks for your contribution.

Ilíon said...

"Any success over that two year period could be achieved a few years down the road in a few months, even weeks."

My father had an 8th grade education -- achieved in a grand total of 19 months, beginning when he was 16, and obtained in the very rural, and remote, South.

Atlas said...

There is nothing wrong with the Head Start Program. I speak with many Mothers every day who are happy with how the Head Start program is working and their children are so much better than without it!