Head Start Manipulating Scumbags

I’ve heard that the latest round of results from the federal evaluation of Head Start is due to be released tomorrow afternoon.  And my psychic powers tell me that the results will show no lasting benefit from Head Start, just like the two previous rounds of results.

You heard that right — the federal government is releasing results that the administration dislikes on a Friday afternoon just before Christmas.  They might as well put the results on display in a locked filing cabinet in a disused lavatory behind the sign that says “beware of the leopard.”

Why is the Department of Health and Human Services burying this study just like they delayed, buried, or distorted the previous ones?  Well, because the study is an extremely rigorous and comprehensive evaluation, involving random assignment of a representative sample of all Head Start students nationwide, that I expect will find no enduring benefits from this program that politicians, pundits, and other dimwits constantly want to expand and fund.  Anyone who casts doubt on think tank research should cast a critical eye toward gross manipulations and abuse of research that are perpetrated by the federal government.

I should repeat that the researchers have done an excellent job evaluating Head Start in this case.  It is the bureaucratic class at the Department of Health and Human Services who have cynically manipulated, delayed, and misreported this research.  The pending report is already delayed several years and has been around for a long time.  The decision to release it on the Friday afternoon before Christmas is completely calculated.

I don’t know your names, but I’m going to invest a little energy in tracking down who is responsible for this cynical abuse of research.  If there were any reporters worth their salt left out there, they would bother to expose you but I guess that job has now been passed to bloggers and enterprising individuals.  When I do find your names I will post them so folks can know who the scumbags are who think they can manipulate the policy community by delaying, burying, or misreporting research.  And then when you get hired by that DC think tank, advocacy organization, or other waste of space we’ll be able to remember who you are and assign no credibility to what you have to say.  These kinds of dastardly acts by public servants should not be cost free and if I have any say in the matter they will not be in this case.

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21 Responses to Head Start Manipulating Scumbags

  1. Greg Forster says:

    Ho, ho, ho! Santa left something in your stockings, naughty bureaucrats, but you don’t want to know what! Merry Christmas!

    • allen says:

      Yeah, because third time’s the charm, right?

      Or maybe fifth or twentieth, hey?

      The failure of Head Start’s been documented for a lot longer then the few studies this article mentions but this time it’ll be different.

      Well, probably not.

      The folks who think Head Start is simply swell, like David, aren’t interested in the data. They just want it and when one rationale collapses in the face of the evidence they’ll just find a new rationale. That’s provided they don’t simply ignore the evidence which wouldn’t exactly be a novel approach to a reality which insists on trying to frustrate their heart’s desires.

  2. David says:

    One should not consider the Head Start Program an education program. It does provide daycare for low income families, especially single parents who need affordable daycare so they can be productive at a job. The discussion should probably be on whether or not the government should provide affordable daycare to low income parent(s). Remove Head Start from the category of education altogether.

    • If we agreed that the program was not supposed to have any educational benefits, it could be done at a fraction of the cost. Babysitting is a lot cheaper than Head Start.

    • Genevieve says:

      Also Head Start isn’t very good at providing daycare. There are only half day programs in my city (a bit over three hours a day, four times a week). There also isn’t transportation. So, if you don’t have a car it can take almost as long to transport your child as the time spent in Head Start.
      Head Start (in my area) does a good job of making sure that children have two meals a day, are evaluated for special needs services if needed, and ensuring that medical and dental needs are met.

    • Greg Forster says:

      The government is now the husband of every single mom and father to her children. I’m hopeful that more and more people on the left are seeing what a nightmare scenario that’s going to lead to after another generation or two, but not enough or fast enough.

  3. Paul Hoss says:

    “…students randomly assigned to Head Start performed no better on cognitive measures by the end of kindergarten and first grade.”

    Did the HS students have two years of preschool, or one? Were the HS students then integrated in their kindergarten and first grade classes with non-HS students? How did the kindergarten and first grade teacher then deal with the differences between HS and non-HS students?

  4. Looks like most data is ignored because the results do not show what “the deciders” would like the data to show.

    So as Government officials clamor for earlier education, where is the data to show an effective model to base this on?

    It exudes a similar “stink” to CCSS or NSF funded “reform math” efforts.

    Look at the Obama/Duncan requirements to get an NCLB waiver.

    Look at the choices for school turn-around models.

    There is nary a shred of relevant data to be found anywhere in support of these models and programs.

    “To improve a system requires the intelligent application of relevant data.”

    Warning Anecdote ahead:

    A friend of mine, with a Masters degree taught head start for several years. She told me it had morphed into a program that taught kids to hate school at a very early age. There were a large number of objectives that students were to master every 4 weeks. These are for four-year old kids and many of the objectives were not developmentally appropriate. — She no longer has any connection with Head Start.

    The Question remains was HS part of a well designed HS-k-12 academic program? Apparently not in many cases.

    So is this getting any better? Given little interest in looking at the data, intelligent application seems out of the question.

  5. The report is up http://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/opre/head_start_report.pdf

    Notice that it is dated October. So clearly this did not have to be released on the Friday before Christmas. And the data collection was completed in 2008. So this took over four years to come out. And my psychic powers were spot-on. There were no enduring benefits to head start.

  6. From the report:
    “In summary, there were initial positive impacts from having access to Head Start, but by the end of 3rd grade there were very few impacts found for either cohort in any of the four domains of cognitive, social-emotional, health and parenting practices. The few impacts that were found did not show a clear pattern of favorable or unfavorable impacts for children.”

  7. As of now there is no announcement of the study release on the HHS web site
    http://www.hhs.gov/news/
    You need psychic powers like I have to find it.

  8. MG says:

    It’s up on EdWeek.

    Question for you.

    In the Kane/Angrist study of Boston charters, the control group of “lottery losers” were about 0.2 SDs above the district average as 5th graders.

    By 8th grade, those kids had regressed to the district mean — the 0.2 advantage was gone.

    So I’m wondering — if I were a teacher or school or parent that had gotten the 0.2 advantage by grade 5, didn’t I add real value, despite the giant sucking sound of those gains during middle school?

    Or did I not achieve anything?

    The charter schools, meanwhile, built on that 0.2 advantage, and increased it, so I gotta think that advantage was “real.”

    • The case for government funded preschool is that it helps close the achievement gap when those students enter school by giving a solid preparation to disadvantaged students. Head Start fails to do that. Whatever skills are conveyed by Head Start are easily taught in kindergarten to all students. We know this because head start effects disappear by kindergarten.

      You can’t say that schools just squander the benefits that head start provides because basically all head start effects disappear, including those on parenting practices.

      In addition, choice benefits ARE enduring. We see this in higher graduation rates.

      • MG says:

        Thanks for the note. I didn’t explain myself well.

        Absolutely, the choice benefits are enduring. Totally agree.

        Angrist is doing a follow-up study on Boston charters. College completion. I’m sure it’ll show enduring benefits for those who won the admission lottery.

        My point was about Boston kids who entered the lottery and didn’t get selected. Lottery LOSERS. Denied choice. Of course they got no benefit. But the surprise: THEY ACTUALLY REGRESSED.

        That is, with no obvious cause, the lottery losers (who didn’t get the advantage of the charter school) slipped 0.2 standard deviations over the next few years.

        We don’t know why the choice lottery losers were 0.2 ahead at the time they entered a charter lottery. Just that they were definitely 0.2 ahead. And that they lost all of that advantage during middle school. We don’t know why.

      • Hmmm. I don’t know about this but thanks for bringing it to my attention.

  9. Joy Pullmann says:

    Good luck getting a response from the DOE. I’ve had to chase them around for months for non-answers before, or to get canned statements already available on their website.

    Although, you should be able to get the names of the bureaucrats with a FOIA. Again, though, you’ll possibly have to threaten them with legal action. I’ve got one four months outstanding though the legal limit to serve it is 20 days.

  10. [...] Hat tip to professor Jay Greene for uncovering the release of this study, and for promising to search out the names of the government officials responsible for burying as long as possible the proof of their own failures.  [...]

  11. momof4 says:

    MG: I can make a guess at why the lottery losers regressed. They may have come from families who placed enough emphasis on education to (1) be dissatisfied with the current school and (2) to enter the lottery process. Their children may well have been (1) well-behaved, (2) motivated/diligent and (3) likely to pass THE test. Therefore, the public schools ignored them and they simply sat in chaotic classrooms where there was no real learning and no challenge for them. The public school focus is, all too often, on those kids who are the least able and/or least motivated.

  12. [...] early education program completely ignores the failure of Head Start. (In case you missed it, that study about the Head Start failure was released on the Friday before Christmas, to achieve maximum circulation, I’m sure.) His invocation of the scientific consensus on [...]

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