In 1997, Head Start launched the Family and Child Experiences Survey (FACES), a study of a national random sample of Head Start programs designed to answer critical questions about child outcomes and program quality. In 2000, FACES began data collection on a new national cohort—FACES 2000—and plans are underway for a third cohort. Now, longitudinal data on successive, scientifically representative samples of children, families, teachers, classrooms, and programs are available.
In both studies, children entered Head Start at a great disadvantage to other children, as evidenced by the children’s initial scores on standardized assessments of cognitive skills. Findings from both cohorts of FACES show that the gap between Head Start children and the general population of preschool-age children narrows during the Head Start year on key components of school readiness. This is true to a greater extent in the 2000-2001 program year. However, despite the gains they make, Head Start children enter kindergarten still substantially below national averages on such assessments.