Assessing the Evaluations of Early Childhood Education Programs

Chapter 14 - Head Start Evaluation, Synthesis and Utilization Project
Introduction to the Original Evaluation (Excerpt)

The federal Head Start program, started in 1965, is designed to "break the cycle of poverty by providing preschool children from low-income families with comprehensive services to meet their emotional, social, health, nutritional, and psychological needs." Head Start studies prior to 1980 varied widely in their findings prompting the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to commission the Head Start Evaluation, Synthesis, and Utilization Project (the "Synthesis project") in 1981 to synthesize the findings. Ruth McKey and her colleagues at CSR, Inc. (the "CSR team") conducted the study, integrating findings from 210 Head Start evaluation report to produce a comprehensive study of the effects of Head Start from 1965 to 1980. The Synthesis project found strong initial cognitive and socioemotional gains from Head Start participation. These effects, however, faded by the end of the second year after Head Start participation. Many of the studies included in the assessment suffer from selection bias, small samples, and attrition. The CSR team attempted to address these problems in their analysis, but their conclusions did not change. Nevertheless, these limitations must be considered in examining their findings.

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