July 23, 2014 Press Releases

New Head Start Report Shows “What Works” for Early Education

Report is the Latest in the Invest in What Works Policy Series Developed to Help Drive Taxpayer Dollars Towards Evidence-based, Results-driven Solutions

WASHINGTON – Building upon last week’s launch of the Invest in What Works Policy Series, Results for America, along with Bellwether Education Partners, today released the latest report: Renewing Head Start’s Promise: Invest in What Works for Disadvantaged Preschoolers. Authored by Sara Mead, a principal with Bellwether Education Partners, the report examines steps the federal government can take to improve the nation’s Head Start programs that are helping vulnerable children get ready for school and narrowing achievement gaps. Bloomberg Philanthropies graciously provided support for the production of this report.

“When a child participates in one of the most-effective Head Start programs, the impact can be transformational,” said Michele Jolin, managing partner, Results for America. “Decades of research shows early learning is a powerful investment, but we also know that steps can be taken to improve the quality and impact of many Head Start providers. Sara’s report, and her recommendations, provide clear direction about how policymakers can support these kinds of improvements and get better results for kids.”

In her report, Sara Mead outlines several policy recommendations that the federal government should implement to help make Head Start more focused on data and evidence so that the program can improve outcomes for our nation’s young people. Mead says in the report: “as policymakers seek to extend the benefits of quality preschool to more children, improving Head Start must be part of these efforts.”

The bipartisan Head Start reauthorization act signed into law by President George W. Bush and implemented by the Obama Administration has helped make Head Start more evidence-based and results-driven than ever before. As the country’s premiere early education program, Head Start plays a critical role in the nation’s effort to ensure that all of our nation’s children have the opportunity to succeed. Despite recent reforms in the way the program operates – using the Classroom Assessment Scoring System to measure the quality of teaching in Head Start classrooms and requiring underperforming programs to recompete for their grants – more can be done to improve Head Start.

To address challenges and enable Head Start to better serve our nation’s young people and their families, Mead recommends the following steps:

  1. Maximize the effectiveness of designation renewal by:
  • Increasing transparency in Head Start monitoring and designation renewal processes;
  • Prioritizing performance and innovation in the designation renewal process;
  • Encouraging new providers; and
  • Improving planning for transition.
  1. Set clear goals and measure program performance by:
  • Establishing clear metrics of program performance at the grantee level;
  • Expanding analysis of Head Start performance data; and
  • Making monitoring reports transparent and easy to access.
  1. Increase flexibility to innovate by:
  • Revising the Head Start Performance Standards to focus less on compliance and more on improving outcomes for children and families;
  • Allowing grantees to apply for waivers of certain requirements; and
  • Rethinking Head Start’s matching requirement.
  1. Carefully explore options to expand the state role in Head Start while protecting federal investments and comprehensive services for Head Start children.

Read “Renewing Head Start’s Promise: Invest in What Works for Disadvantaged Preschoolers.

This report is part of Results for America’s “Invest in What Works Policy Series,” which provides ideas and supporting research to policymakers to drive public funds toward evidence-based, results-driven solutions. The series will include policy papers, expert roundtable discussions, and public events. Bloomberg Philanthropies graciously provided support for the launch of the Invest in What Works Policy Series.

For more information about Results for America’s recent activities, including its most recent federal Investing in What Works Index, which highlighted Head Start as an evidence-based program, and the first paper released, “The Power of a Penny: Building Knowledge to Invest in What Works in Education,” click here.


RFA Launches “Invest in What Works” Policy Series, Unveils “The Power of a Penny”