Giving Children a Head Start Is Possible—But It's Not Easy

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Science  19 Aug 2011:
Vol. 333, Issue 6045, pp. 956-957
DOI: 10.1126/science.333.6045.956

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Has Head Start, the U.S. government program that is meant to give low-income children (and those with disabilities) a boost, been a success? Unfortunately, that's not an easy question to answer. Overly broad expectations for a program focused on only one consequence of poverty make it hard to evaluate its real impact. On one hand, low-income parents have other publicly funded educational options for their children, notably state prekindergarten programs and subsidized child care, so the existence of good alternatives may narrow the gap in any comparison study with Head Start. On the other hand, any positive effects from Head Start could be suppressed by other aspects of childhood poverty or erased by low-quality education once they enter school. Nevertheless, even its supporters agree that Head Start is not as good as it could be.