Head Start does not raise IQ's


IQ research has public policy implications. The amount of money Congress authorizes for the Head Start program varies with research findings. In their comments below, both a pro and a con writer agree that raising IQ is not a long term outcome of Head Start:


1. The Battle Over Head Start: What the Research Shows

by W. Steven Barnett, PhD, Director of the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER)

from: http://nieer.org/resources/research/BattleHeadStart.pdf (Google text from a Head Start IQ search)

Initial IQ gains produced by Head Start during a child's program attendance 
do fade-out gradually after the child leaves the program. This is true for 
all types of preschool education interventions that began after age three. 

However, IQ scores do not tell the whole entire story. Follow-up studies of Head Start also 
have looked at achievement test scores, grade retention, special education, and high school 
graduation to assess Head Start's long-term cognitive and academic benefits. At first glance, 
achievement test results appear consistent with IQ results. Most, but not all, Head Start 
studies find that achievement effects decline and disappear a few years into school. Yet nearly all 
studies that measured school progress find lasting impacts on grade repetition, special education, 
and high school graduation.


2. Hyping the Head Start Program

by Mackinac Center for Public Policy

from http://www.educationreport.org/article.asp?ID=159 Posted: Apr. 5, 1993

The Head Start program is, in the words of founder Edward Zigler, "America's most successful education experiment." Zigler is exactly right, if success is measured by good public relations. Politicians from both major parties are fond of touting Head Start, the popular federal program that provides preschool and health services to poor children. Social activists, educators and journalists love it (for the latter, the smiling faces of preschoolers make for excellent television). ....

Certainly, Head Start children tend to score better than their peers when they enter first-grade. But after about two years of public school, the disadvantaged who attended Head Start tend to perform at about the same level as those who did not--that is, poorly. Two years is all it takes for the educational "gains" from Head Start to disappear.

A 1985 analysis by the Department of Health and Human Services found that ambitious claims for Head Start's long-term effects were exaggerated. "In the long run," the department's report noted, "cognitive and socio-emotional test scores of former Head Start students do not remain superior to those of disadvantaged children who did not attend Head Start." More recent research confirms that conclusion.

The source of all the hype about Head Start is really the experience of a few atypical, idiosyncratic preschool programs whose specific designs include a great deal of parental involvement, funding, and staff training.

3. Early Education Fadeout in IQ, a 2003 report by charter schools

from http://www.ncsc.info/newsletter/june2003/early_childhood.htm  - a charter schools site funded by the US Department of Edcation:

Eliminating Fade-Out  (of Early Childhood Education efforts)

Unfortunately, cognitive gains, as measured by IQ and performance tests, extend into the early primary grades, but begin to dissipate, or “fade-out”, around second or third grade. In other words, by the end of the primary grades, there is no material difference in the achievement scores of children who had attended preschool and those who had not.2 Failure to sustain the cognitive gains achieved as a result of Head Start attendance can be attributed to the inferior schools into which students are enrolled subsequent to program completion.3

However, “(i)t is in the non-cognitive realm (of behavioral and socialization skills) that the greatest benefits of preschool experience occur.”4 Furthermore, non-cognitive gains have proven to be sustainable in the long run. According to the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory’s Research on Early Childhood Education, a report compiling the results of many of the early Head Start studies, preschool graduates outperform non-preschool participants in the following non-cognitive areas:5

* Fewer referrals for remedial classes
* Fewer retentions
* Greater social and emotional maturity
* More frequent high school graduation/GED completion rates
* Lower absenteeism
* Better attitudes toward school
* Better self-esteem
* Lower incidence of illegitimate pregnancy, drug use and delinquent acts


See: Nature vs Nurture, a summary of research on IQ. It indicates that 70-80% of IQ is determined by genetics. Those who feel that nature plays a bigger role point to findings such as at http://www.audiblox.com/iq_scores.htm (This site describes an enriched group of disadvantaged youths with average IQ's of 105, compared to a control group with 85 IQ's after several years). But this and similar limited findings fit the atypical cases in the above paragraph. If IQ gains really were permanent, Head Start proponents like Steven Barnett above would not be talking about fadeout of those gains.

Or go to: IQ Basic Information or Home Page

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