Building Futures: The Head Start Impact Study Interim Report

Published: September 15, 2003
Head Start
Head Start Impact Study and Follow-up, 2000-2015 | Learn more about this project
Reports to Congress: First Year Findings

The Head Start program, which provides comprehensive early childhood development services to low-income children and their families, has experienced significant growth over the last decade, especially as greater attention has been paid to the need for early intervention. During this period, the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) released two reports underlining the lack of rigorous research on Head Start’s effectiveness, i.e., ”. . .the body of research on current Head Start is insufficient to draw conclusions about the impact of the national program,” and, as a consequence, “. . .the Federal government’s significant financial investment in the Head Start program, including plans to increase the number of children served and enhance the quality of the program, warrants definitive research studies, even though they may be costly.”

Based upon the GAO recommendation, and the testimony of research methodologists and early childhood experts, Congress mandated through the 1998 reauthorization of Head Start that the Department of Health and Human Services determine, on a national level, the impact of Head Start on the children it serves. In October 2000, DHHS awarded a contract to Westat in collaboration with The Urban Institute, the American Institutes for Research, and Decision Information Resources to conduct the Head Start Impact Study.