Assessing the Evaluations of Early Childhood Education Programs

Chapter 13 - Head Start Summer Program (1965)
Introduction to the Original Evaluation (Excerpt)

The Head Start program, started in 1965 as an eight-week summer program for three- and four-year-old children, is designed to help "break the cycle of poverty by providing preschool children from low-income families with a comprehensive program to meet their emotional, social, health, nutritional, and psychological needs."

Leon Eisenberg and C. Keith Conners, then of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine (the "Johns Hopkins team"), evaluated the cognitive impact of the 1965 Head Start summer program in Baltimore, Maryland. One of many early evaluations of the Head Start program, it is included here because at the time, it gained much attention among educators and in the media. This evaluation found that Head Start's summer program produced immediate cognitive gains. There was no long-term follow-up, and the Johns Hopkins team speculated that the early gains might "fade out," given the subsequent "educational impoverishment" characterizing inner-city schools. Although the evaluation was based on a comparison group design (rather than a randomized experiment), the evaluation is reviewed here because (1) it came so early in the life of Head Start, (2) the methodology is reasonably strong, and (3) the findings related to short-term impacts foreshadow those in subsequent research.

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