Is Head Start Actually Bad for Kids?

Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam. He is completing a book on the international challenges America faces in the 21st century.


As Judicial Watch notes, while Obama is pushing preschool like the ice cream man outside a playground pushes chocolate covered cones, the statistics on its success are somewhat debatable.

Obama keeps pushing the federally-funded universal preschool program known as Head Start even though his own Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has determined that it’s ineffective. Remember how he cited “study after study” showing that the government’s investment in universal preschool pays for itself during the State of Union earlier this month?

It turns out that one of those studies, published last fall by his own HHS, reveals that Head Start isn’t working despite its whopping $8 billion a year price tag. In fact, children who participated in Head Start did worse in math and had problems with social interactions by third grade than those who didn’t go through the federal program.

The study concludes that most of the early benefits of Head Start disappear after 3rd Grade and one of its conclusions shows that

For children in the 4 year old cohort At the end of 3rd grade, teachers reported more problems in their relationship with Head Start children and a lower percentage of Head Start children in the normal category for emotional symptoms.

While the study shows that parents reported improved results, teachers appeared to note worse results. Reconciling this is a bit hard until you dig down and see that Head Start appears to produce the best results for children from troubled families and minority children, while producing negative results for some white children. It may be that Head Start’s limited positive results are showing up because it is being used as an alternative to poor parental care by inept parents and troubled families.

Head Start isn’t really working as an educational kickstarter, instead it looks a lot like a multi-billion dollar babysitting program.

  • Mary Sue

    iiiiiinteresting. Someone needs to get their hands on Head Start materials, what it is they actually teach the kids.

    How much do you want to bet it's laced with a sprinkling of Identity Politics nonsense?

  • JacksonPearson

    From the 10 point Communist Goals:
    10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labor in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, etc, ect.

  • kasandra

    Hey, we've only spent something like $168 billion on Project Head Start since it was begun. You can't expect any results after only 40 years of trying and that paltry amount of money.

  • nancy

    Logic and these statistics would tell you that Head Start children make progress while in the Head Start program. However, once immersed in the public education system, it takes three years for the public education system to "undo" all the benefits Head Start brought into the lives of these children. Perhaps Head Start's fundamental structure enables teachers to improve the lives of children in poverty, by focusing on the well-being of the family -not just the child. Remember that there's always another way to look at things, including studies like these. If you question Head Start and its effectiveness, I encourage you to volunteer at your local Head Start for a week or more, like I did, to broaden your opinion and touch your heart. I was surprisingly welcome with so much love from everyone in Head Start. I cannot begin to imagine why someone would claim or question that helping children in poverty is bad. Poverty is what is bad for children! Not programs aiming at helping children in poverty!

  • Viet Vet

    If you remember that wingnut Jocelyn Elders, who was Surgeon General for a short time, advocated 'National Daycare'. She was giving an interview to Sam Donaldson, and she advocated getting at children when they were two years old in order to teach them sex education. Donaldson, asked how she intended to get ahold of children when they were two and she said that they (her and the Klinton Administration) wanted 'National Daycare'.

  • True Patriot

    Is this an opinion piece? That is how it reads either way. The author makes no mention of any other studies yet seems to reach a firm conclusion. smdh!