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Findings and Implications for Programs From the Early Head Start Research and Evaluation Project. October 2005. Understanding Early Head Start.

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findings and implications for programs from the early head start research and evaluation project

Findings and Implications for Programs From the Early Head Start Research and Evaluation Project

October 2005

understanding early head start
Understanding Early Head Start
  • Comprehensive, two-generational program designed to promote healthy prenatal outcomes for pregnant women, enhance the development of very young children, and promote healthy family functioning.
the early head start program
The Early Head Start Program
  • Established in 1994
  • Over 700 programs serving about 62,000 children
  • Various beginnings, but all become Head Start
  • Currently 10% of the Head Start budget
  • Follows the Head Start Program Performance Standards
program options for service delivery
Program Options for Service Delivery
  • Home Based
  • Center Based
  • Combination of Home and Center Based
  • Locally Designed options
the early head start research and evaluation project
The Early Head Start Research and Evaluation Project
  • Began in 1995
  • 3001 children and families followed from enrollment in program to child age 3, pre-kindergarten
  • Experimental Design Impact Study

Early Head Start

Control Group

research conducted by early head start research consortium
Research Conducted by Early Head Start Research Consortium

The Consortium consists of representatives from 17 programs participating in the evaluation, 15 local research teams, the evaluation contractors, and ACF/ACYF.

Research institutions in the Consortium (and principal researchers) include ACF (Rachel Chazan Cohen, Judith Jerald, Esther Kresh, Helen Raikes, and Louisa Tarullo); Catholic University of America (Michaela Farber, Lynn Milgram Mayer, Harriet Liebow, Christine Sabatino, Nancy Taylor, Elizabeth Timberlake, and Shavaun Wall); Columbia University (Lisa Berlin, Christy Brady-Smith, Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, and Alison Sidle Fuligni); Harvard University (Catherine Ayoub, Barbara Alexander Pan, and Catherine Snow); Iowa State University (Dee Draper, Gayle Luze, Susan McBride, Carla Peterson); Mathematica Policy Research (Kimberly Boller, Ellen Eliason Kisker, John M. Love, Diane Paulsell, Christine Ross, Peter Schochet, Cheri Vogel, and Welmoet van Kammen); Medical University of South Carolina (Richard Faldowski, Gui-Young Hong, and Susan Pickrel); Michigan State University (Hiram Fitzgerald, Tom Reischl, and Rachel Schiffman); New York University (Mark Spellmann and Catherine Tamis-LeMonda); University of Arkansas (Robert Bradley, Mark Swanson, and Leanne Whiteside-Mansell); University of California, Los Angeles (Carollee Howes and Claire Hamilton); University of Colorado Health Sciences Center (Robert Emde, Jon Korfmacher, JoAnn Robinson, Paul Spicer, and Norman Watt); University of Kansas (Jane Atwater, Judith Carta, and Jean Ann Summers); University of Missouri-Columbia (Mark Fine, Jean Ispa, and Kathy Thornburg); University of Pittsburgh (Carol McAllister, Beth Green, and Robert McCall); University of Washington School of Education (Eduardo Armijo and Joseph Stowitschek); University of Washington School of Nursing (Kathryn Barnard and Susan Spieker); and Utah State University (Lisa Boyce and Lori Roggman).

many measures used in the project
Many Measures Used in the Project
  • Implementation data, including ratings
  • Family service use data 7, 16, and 28 months after enrollment (both program and control) and after leaving EHS
  • Child and family data collected when children were 14, 24, and 36 months old and at Pre-K
  • Videotaped observations of parent-child interaction
  • Interviewer observations (e.g., HOME scale)
  • Parent interview (e.g., health, mental health, parenting, child development)
  • Child assessments (e.g., cognitive, language)
positive impacts multiple dimensions of children s development
Positive Impacts: Multiple Dimensions of Children’s Development
  • More received immunizations
  • Fewer emergency room visits for accidents and injuries
  • Higher mean Bayley MDI Higher mean Bayley MDI (higher mean scores & fewer in low functioning group)
  • Larger receptive vocabularies
  • Lower levels of aggressive behavior
  • Higher sustained attention with objects
  • Greater engagement of parent
  • Less negativity toward parent
positive impacts in many areas of parenting
Positive Impacts in Many Areas of Parenting
  • Greater warmth and supportiveness
  • Less detachment
  • More parent-child play
  • More stimulating home environments/support for learning
  • More daily reading
  • Less spanking by both mothers and fathers
  • More hours in education and job training
  • More employment hours
the program had positive effects on aspects of parent self sufficiency
The Program Had Positive Effects on Aspects of Parent Self-Sufficiency
  • More hours in education and job training
  • Probability of being employed (trend)
  • No impacts on welfare receipt or income
consistent impacts on participation in education training programs
Consistent Impacts on Participation in Education & Training Programs

Percentage in Education or Training in Quarter

After Random Assignment

*Difference is Significant at the 5% Level

no consistent impacts on employment
No Consistent Impacts on Employment

Percentage Employed in Quarter

After Random Assignment

*Difference is Significant at the 5% Level

the program had beneficial impacts for early head start fathers
Less spanking

Less intrusive in interaction with child

Children of program fathers were more engaged and attentive.

The Program Had Beneficial Impacts for Early Head Start Fathers
family subgroups
Family Subgroups
  • Positive Impacts in 28/29 subgroups
  • Larger impacts in some subgroups (ES=.20-.50): (1) African American, (2) enrolled at pregnancy, (3) medium demographic risk
  • No impact in one group: Highest level of cumulative demographic risk
program models fit community needs
Program Models Fit Community Needs

Mixed approach



Community Needs Assessment

all program approaches had favorable impacts
All Program Approaches Had Favorable Impacts

Center-based programs

  • Enhanced children’s cognitive and social-emotional development
  • Improved some parenting outcomes

Home-based programs

  • Enhanced children’s social-emotional development
  • Reduced parenting stress and increased self-sufficiency

Mixed-approach programs

  • Enhanced children’s language and social-emotional development
  • Improved wide range of parenting behaviors and increased self-sufficiency
implementing head start performance standards strengthened impacts
Implementing Head Start Performance Standards Strengthened Impacts
  • Early implementers had strongest pattern of impacts when children were 2
  • Well implemented programs (whether early or later) affected more types of outcomes when children were 3, including:
  • Child outcomes
  • Parent-child interactions
  • Parenting
  • Mental health
  • Progress toward economic self-sufficiency
strongest impacts found in early implemented mixed programs
Strongest Impacts Found in Early-Implemented Mixed Programs

Child development

  • Smaller % with low language scores
  • Higher cognitive scores
  • Greater engagement of parent
  • Greater sustained attention with objects

Parenting and self-sufficiency

  • More supportive presence during the puzzle task
  • Higher % read daily to child
  • Smaller % suggest physical punishment
  • Higher % ever in education and ever worked
  • Smaller % with repeat pregnancy
impacts in early implemented mixed programs larger than overall impacts
Impacts In Early-Implemented Mixed Programs Larger Than Overall Impacts









Daily Reading

Ever Employed


Total Sample

  • Early Head Start was broadly effective across a wide array of outcomes and family subgroups.
  • In several subgroups, impacts were larger as well as broad, demonstrating potential focus areas for programs in the future.
  • The evaluation points to ways programs can build on a good beginning.
  • Advisory Committee on Services to Families with Infants and Toddlers recommended that EHS programs formalize “transitioning” to formal care and education settings for ages 3-5
    • Head Start
    • Other Formal Care and Education
questions for pre kindergarten analyses
Questions for Pre-Kindergarten Analyses
  • How does Early Head Start from birth to age 3 contribute to school readiness and family functioning?
  • How do child development services from birth to age 5, including formal education and care program experiences between ages 3 and 5, contribute to school readiness and family functioning at the time of school entry?
  • Are patterns of impacts for subgroups of families and program approaches maintained over time?
next steps
Next Steps
  • Fifth Grade Follow-Up with reduced sample, core measures
  • Need to augment Fifth Grade Follow-Up sample and measures
for more information
For More Information