Assessing the Evaluations of Early Childhood Education Programs

Chapter 17 - Houston Parent Child Development Center
Introduction to the Original Evaluation (Excerpt)

The Houston Parent Child Development Center (H-PCDC) operated as a research and development program in low-income Houston neighborhoods from 1970 to 1980 as one of three1 experimental PCDCs sponsored by the Office of Economic Opportunity. It continues today, but only as a service program. PCDCs were created in response to the perceived failure of Head Start to make meaningful improvement in the lives of disadvantaged children. Some observers argued that this was because Head Start began too late (age four), after the effects of poverty had already compromised the development of children, and because the Head Start intervention was too limited, lasting only one year. PCDCs were intended to address these perceived shortcomings by beginning earlier (age one) and providing services for a longer period of time (two years). The H- PCDC focused specifically on Mexican-American families and provided home-based services in the first 12 months of the program and center-based services for the second 12 months, focusing on teaching parents about child development and parenting skills.

Dale Johnson of the University of Houston and his colleagues (the "Houston team") conducted the H-PCDC evaluation, using random assignment for cohorts from 1972–1980. At the time that the children entered school, there were no statistically significant differences between the program and control groups on standard school achievement tests. By the third grade, however, the program group had significantly higher reading scores, and by the seventh grade, they had significantly higher scores on all achievement tests. The evaluation, however, suffered from high levels of attrition and possible problems in carrying out random assignment. In addition, the findings are limited to children from low-income, Hispanic families that may have been more education-oriented, so they cannot be generalized to broader segments of the low-income population.

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