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Study: Head Start Helps Children Make Some Progress Towards Kindergarten Readiness

A report on children who entered Head Start in 2009 found that after exiting the program that they were below norms in language, literacy, and math, though making positive progress in those areas. By the time they exit the program they score at the norm on letter-word knowledge.

The report, based on a study conducted by Mathematica Policy Research, also showed that children had fewer problem behaviors by the time they exited Head Start, as well as more positive approaches to learning and stronger executive functioning skills. Most children were reported to be in excellent or very good health both when they entered Head Start and when they exited, but about one-third of the children were overweight or obese, using criteria developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey for 2009, also known as FACES 2009, is the fifth in a series of nationally representative cohort studies of newly entering Head Start children and their families. Cohorts were also studied in 1997, 2000, 2003, and 2006. (Information for some of the previous studies can be found at the Mathematica FACES webpage.)

The research also provides a snapshot of what a representative sample of Head Start children and families looked like in 2009. For example, 39 percent were Hispanic or Latino, 32 percent were black and 22 percent were white. Two out of three children had a parent with a high school diploma or GED. And 43 percent lived with both parents.

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