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January 22, 2010

Lets Not Kid Ourselves

I just read pioneer early childhood researcher Steven Barnett's analysis of the The Head Start Impact Study with a nodding head. Dr. Barnett really does "get it" when he looks at this type of research. His take mirror's my own (less sophisticated) assessment of the study results. 

He says that we can't deny the validity of the study and attack it because we don't like what it says, or, what some would have us believe it says. That approach only discredits what high-quality early childhood education has always rested it's case on: research that supports the value of high quality pre-k experiences on a scale that affects not only children but society. We can't transfer blame up the ladder to public schools either. Steven Barnett's look at the "cumulative" knowledge of research left oddly positive about the prospects for a more effective Head Start program.

His six lesson's from the study include:

  • Most private preschools are of lower quality than Head Start.
  • The study did not show "fade out" but actually showed catch up.
  • Kindergarten was key to the growth for both Head Start and control groups.
  • Head Start was the first public preschool program but it has been done better since its inception by state programs like those in Oklahoma and New Jersey.
  • The small effects evident in the study may lead to substantial, if not necessarily measurable, effects later on.
  • If Head Start were reformed it could realize more substantial affects.

These are just the sound bites from Dr. Barnett's extensive response. Please check out the whole thing here.

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