New Analysis Helps Explain the Value of Head Start. Plus, U.S. Education Secretary Talks Early Learning


What is the value of a year in a high-quality preschool?


The answer to this question is complex and still emerging, but a new analysis may have provided a chunk of the answer this month by explaining what the Head Start Impact Study really tells us about the federal government’s largest preschool program.


The study’s findings that many of the benefits of Head Start fade out by third grade has become fodder for critics of the program. But, the findings may be misunderstood, at least by some, economist Tim Bartik suggests.


Bartik explores two new studies (Kline and Walters, and by Feller et al.) that suggest gains faded, partly, because parents in the control group, those who were not placed in Head Start, chose another preschool, instead of home care.


I will let the senior economist at the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research explain.


These two new studies, after explicitly trying to control for what alternatives parents would have chosen to Head Start, find much larger effects of Head Start versus home care than for Head Start versus other preschools. Both Kline and Walters, and Feller et al., find very small or non-existent effects of Head Start on test score outcomes when those Head Start effects are compared to the test score effects of other preschools that would have been chosen. In contrast, the effects of Head Start versus home care on test score outcomes are much larger.

“Head Start impacts: the importance of the counterfactual.” Investing in Kids, 4/14/15.
This research matters more than ever because momentum is gathering in Seattle, Washington state and around the country to expand preschool. Bartik’s story gets a little technical, but if you are involved in early learning and public policy check it out.


Senate Update

The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee passed a bill that would revamp the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), with changes that could improve early learning. It’s unclear if the bill has a realistic chance of reaching President Barack Obama’s desk this year, but it is progress.


Education Secretary Talks Early Learning

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan spoke to the Education Writers Association at their conference this week, and he had good things to say about early learning. Here are highlights:





Check out what else is happening at the Education Writers of America conference on Twitter at #EWA15.