Letter to the Editor: Head Start Works!

Every child that starts school unready for school is at risk for a lifetime of costly challenges, costs we all share. Head Start, America’s largest preschool program, has a vital role in reducing risk for Kentucky’s most vulnerable children.

Serving 30 million American children since 1965, Head Start promotes school readiness for low-income children by addressing their deficits in early learning, health and family functioning. Many successful alumni attest to its transformative impact.

While our investment in Head Start warrants study, the inherent challenges for such research are seen in early studies whose flawed methods promoted a misperception that Head Start gains ‘fade out’. Ongoing study has corrected such flaws with different outcomes.

Steve Barnett from the National Institute of Early Education Research, an occasional Head Start critic, analyzed data from 2003 – 2009, finding that language gains for Head Start children doubled those in comparison groups. Another study by Mississippi State University found that Head Start children were twice as likely to be proficient in language, writing and math. Researchers concluded, “Results clearly show that Head Start has a significant impact in the first years of elementary education.”

These outcomes also reflect bipartisan work in Congress to strengthen Head Start. We have in-creased training for our teachers in literacy development. Teachers with four-year degrees or higher have increased from 25% to 67%. We’re replacing oversight agencies in programs that don’t meet Head Start’s high standards. In Kentucky, we’re working with other early education providers to align our various standards for stronger collaboration.

Kentucky’s Head Starts are among the nation’s strongest, as evidenced by the stability of our pro-gram oversight. We are making a powerful difference in the lives of Kentucky’s at-risk children. In promoting their futures, we secure Kentucky’s future.

Allyson Shelton

Executive Director

Kentucky Head Start