Does the nation’s largest preschool program really work?

By any measure, the federal “Head Start” preschool program for poor children is a huge program, and it has been operating long enough that we now should have a good understanding of how well this program really functions.

But, as the Independent Women’s Forum’s Carrie Lukas reports in Forbes, despite billions of dollars already expended on Head Start, and despite a long-running research program on its impacts, the public still has no real answers.


That’s what Ms. Lukas wants to know. She says collection of federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) research on Head Start impacts on 5,000 children whose performance was tracked through the third grade was completed way back in 2008.

Still, the final report has never been issued.

Certainly, results from an earlier HHS report on Head Start were not impressive. That earlier study followed students from preschool through the first grade. Lukas writes that:

“In January 2010, after four years of ‘analysis,’ the HHS Department finally released the results on Head Start’s impact on first graders. The study found that, compared to their control group peers, Head Start failed to boost students’ cognitive abilities across 41 measures. Moreover, first grade teachers reported that former Head Start students were actually less prepared in math than the non-Head Start students.”

Lukas speculates that the final report won’t be helpful to those who are pushing for more money for preschool programs, which includes the current administration in DC.

So, the push for bucks continues in Washington (and also for similar preschool programs desired by a number of groups here in Kentucky).

Important evidence that those bucks will really do much for kids also continues – to remain hidden from public view.