HHS released the Head Start Impact Study Final Report last week. There are several remarkable things about it:
- The study demonstrated that children’s attendance in Head Start has no demonstrable impact on their academic, socio-emotional, or health status at the end of first grade. That’s right. If you were a mother who lost the lottery, couldn’t get your child into Head Start, and had to care for her at home, she was no worse off at the end of first grade than she would have been had she gotten into Head Start. That isn’t to say that she was well off. In the critical area of vocabulary, 3-year-olds entered the study at the 29th percentile in terms of national norms and finished first grade at the 24th percentile whether or not they attended Head Start. That is not good.
- The study went virtually unnoticed. You can’t find anything about it in the Washington Post or theNew York Times or the Wall Street Journal or any other media outlet that serves the general public. The Post has 11 reporters covering education. Why isn’t a report on the effectiveness of the nation’s largest federally administered education program, one that serves thousands of needy children within the Post’s metro area, deemed worthy of newsprint? Is Head Start so sacrosanct that bad news about it is to be ignored?
- The report of the study was inexcusably delayed. Data collection for the first grade follow-up was completed in the spring of 2006. Best practice in federal agencies would have seen a report released 12-18 months later. In fact, a draft report was provided to government officials in 2008 but wheels turned for long periods afterwards as the contractors were pushed to try different analytic techniques in the hope that something positive for Head Start could be found. Residuals of that effort are apparent in the released report, wherein findings are reported as suggestive or moderate that do not meet well accepted standards for statistical significance. The inexcusable delays continue as a report on a follow-up at the end of third grade, on which data collection ended in the spring of 2008, is no where in sight.
Oh, and as an aside, Bob Beckel continued to his classy behavior by blaming Hannity for his use of the F word live on the air. I would like to see the headlines today had that been a conservative man using that word towards a liberal female instead of the other way around.
I wonder how big the fine from the FCC is going to be and will Fox make Beckel pay for it?