The Head Start Program: Intentions and Outcomes

A friend who knew I was interested in education policy sent me the link to an NPR podcast titled “Why Preschool Can Save the World” and recommended that I listen to it.  Economist James Heckman was interviewed about his research on the positive economic value of preschool.  I had already developed an interest in preschool education, but once I researched the subject more and read about the benefits of this policy, I knew that it was something I wanted to pursue as a career.

President Obama’s State of the Union address included a proposal to increase access to early childhood education.  It will be important to evaluate the existing facilities for preschool education, including Head Start, to ensure that these programs are accomplishing the desired goals and children are receiving adequate education.

As part of my research for the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress, I would like to research the foundations of the Head Start Program and evaluate its effectiveness.  In order to understand what must be done to improve the Head Start Program, I want to understand the goals that were present at the founding of the program and how they can be translated into action in the modern political environment. 

I truly think that ensuring access to high quality early childhood education for every child in the United States can lead to a decrease in the achievement gap that is present between children of different socioeconomic statuses.  The key to this statement is the words “high quality,” a description that is easy to say but hard to achieve.  My research is exciting to me because I want to learn how to make Head Start as effective as possible, and thus allow children from disadvantaged backgrounds an equal opportunity for academic success.

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