This year, Education Week is exploring the policy initiatives that were born 50 years ago as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty. This week, both in the blog and in the newspaper, I will offer a closer look at Head Start, the federally funded preschool program for children from low-income families, and the policy debates surrounding it.
Head Start did not officially launch until the summer of 1965, but the seeds of its birth had already been germinating in the mind of his top anti-poverty policy adviser, Sargent Shriver. In late 1964, Shriver would pull together a team of academics who, in less than two months, would create a framework aimed at providing health, social, emotional, and academic supports to poor children. The ideas were enormously ambitious—and faced challenges from the start that echo to this day.
Fortuitously, Sara Mead, a policy analyst with Washington-based Bellwether Associates (and a former edweek.org blogger) released a report late last month, “Renewing Head Start’s Promise,” in which she outlines what she sees as Head Start’s strengths, its weaknesses, and areas where the program can be strengthened for the future.