Head Start Works, UC Irvine Research Finds

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We're used to seeing, reading and hearing about how the nation's K-12 education system is broken, so it's refreshing to find out one form of education is working: the early, pre-K-12 kind, according to UC Irvine researchers.

Specifically, the conclusions published in the current issue of the journal Child Development show that pre-school children who receive little or no academic stimulation at home--such as being read to--do better after one year in Head Start than children who are not enrolled in the program.

"These results suggest that it's particularly important that Head Start be offered to those children whose parents did not report providing a lot of pre-academic stimulation," said Elizabeth B. Miller, a Ph.D. student in UC Irvine's School of Education and the study's lead author. "It's vital that Head Start continue to serve children at the highest and moderate levels of risk because the program is particularly helpful to their development."

But the same Head Start children were found to do worse academically than children who do receive academic stimulation at home, which can also include being helped to learn to count and recognize and sound out letters and words.

So, the new UCI findings encourage all children to get academic stimulation at home, including those in Head Start, a comprehensive program that provides more than 1 million low-income children annually with preschool education; medical, dental and mental healthcare; and nutrition.

The study suggests teaching parents how to boost pre-academic stimulation in the home.

"Working with parents to increase what they do at home may be an important way Head Start can improve children's readiness for school," says Miller, who co-authored the study with George Farkas, a UCI education professor; Deborah Vandell, founding dean of the UCI School of Education; and Greg Duncan, a UCI Distinguished Professor of education.

Funding for the research came from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development.

Email: mcoker@ocweekly.com. Twitter: @MatthewTCoker. Follow OC Weekly on Twitter @ocweekly or on Facebook!


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