Assessing the Evaluations of Early Childhood Education Programs

Chapter 11 - Even Start Family Literacy Program (3rd National Evaluation)
Introduction to the Original Evaluation (Excerpt)

The Even Start Family Literacy Program was originally authorized by Congress in 1965 and reauthorized in 1994. The Even Start program is intended to: "help break the cycle of poverty and illiteracy by improving the educational opportunities of the Nation's low-income families by integrating early childhood education, adult literacy or adult basic education, and parenting education into a unified family literacy program." In 2000–2001, there were 855 Even Start projects serving 31,896 families.

Robert St.Pierre, then vice president and principal associate at Abt Associates Inc., and his associates (the "Abt team") conducted the third national Even Start evaluation which covered the 1999-2000 and 2000-2001 program years. The evaluation used random assignment in eighteen sites and appears to have been implemented without problems. The research sample, however, was not nationally representative, having a considerably higher percentage of families that were Latino and that lived in urban areas. The program, which cost approximately $10,366 (in 2005 dollars) per family during the 2000-2001 program year, apparently produced virtually no meaningful effects on a range of cognitive and behavioral outcomes. The Abt team suggests that one possible explanation for the absence of program impacts is that about one-third of the families in the program group did not participate in the program and many families in the control group received comparable services. A second possible explanation offered is the lack of any coherent curriculum content in the Even Start classrooms. A third possible explanation is that those Even Start families that did participate only participated in a fraction of the available services.

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