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Understanding the Head Start Impact Study

The 2010 report of the Head Start Impact Study is an important follow-up evaluation of the only national investigation that attempts to answer the question: What are the program's impacts, as measured at the end of first grade, for children who received Head Start services when they were 3 or 4 years of age? The Impact Study took advantage of the fact that most Head Start centers across the nation have waiting lists of parents wishing to enroll their children in the program. Using a random, lottery-like process, 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds on the waiting list were offered the opportunity to enroll. This resulted in two groups (or experimental "conditions") -- children who were offered the chance to enroll in Head Start and those who were not. Both groups were followed to the end of first grade. Overall, the study was sound scientifically, but there has been considerable debate over what its findings mean. Further analysis of the data will undoubtedly support additional conclusions, but this brief offers a research-based interpretation of the findings presented in the Impact Study itself. (author abstract)
Resource Type:
Fact Sheets & Briefs
United States

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