Head Start: Why It Doesn't Work
Head Start a really good preschool program for poor kids?
Unfortunately, no. It often costs $10,000 per child per
year, but its benefits vanish or wash out by the time the child enters second
or third grade, research shows.
Evidence shows that the billions we've spent on Head Start,
the preschool program for disadvantaged children, doesn't help bridge the school
achievement gap between them and middle-class kids. It also doesn't reduce future
dropout and crime rates to any degree. But it's not because the socioeconomic
problems of these kids are so difficult, nothing would work. It's because Head
Start doesn't stick to preparing the children for academic success. Instead, it
veers off into social engineering to a large extent.
often use poor children's meager home circumstances as an excuse for the
achievement gap. But the truth is, there is less poverty today than in
generations past, more home ownership, more employment and more parental
educational attainment. While there are also more broken families and more drug
use today, both key factors, the focus should be squarely on the Head Start
philosophy and methods, not blaming the children and families it's supposed to
known for decades that Head Start does not, as promised, raise IQ and does not,
as designed, improve children's readiness for reading and math instruction once
they start school. It stings, since the average cost of a year in Head Start
exceeds the average cost per pupil in a K-12 public school.
reason: Head Start all over the land has wandered into social engineering
programs such as "Anti-Bias Curriculum" and radical environmentalism instead of
sticking to the fundamentals of instilling the skills of literacy and numeracy.
because there is no accountability - no measurement of what the children learn
while in Head Start. That's because there is no standard curriculum nationwide
- not that anyone wants nationalization of the sandbox set. But the range of
quality is vast, and because Head Starts get their money and direction straight
from the federal government, there is no local control or balance of power.
Simple testing requirements would go a long way: "Do you read words from left
to right, or from right to left?" and "How many blocks are on the rug? If I
take one away, how many are left?"
reason Head Start has failed is that the program is rooted in President Lyndon
Johnson's "War on Poverty" philosophy from the 1960s, where the disadvantaged
are equipped to help themselves. Head Start uses parents as employees and
volunteers, but spends so much time training them to provide emotional
stability in the home, nutritious meals and how to access social services that
academics fall by the wayside.
Start's role model should be Abraham Lincoln: an impoverished, neglected child
of a single father who focused on academics, not his socioeconomic woes. He put
effort, not expense, into building himself into one of the greatest thinkers of world history. His equipment?
Some chalk, a slate, and a few borrowed books . . . more powerful than a
boatload of expensive government social services.
a book that retails for $15, and maybe cheaper online or used. It would go a
long way toward fulfilling what a $10,000 year in Head Start might do for a
child: Reclaiming Childhood: Letting
Children Be Children in Our Achievement-Oriented Society by William Crain.