This report provides a portrait of children entering Head Start for the first time in fall 2009, as well as of their family backgrounds and the classrooms and programs that serve them. The report also offers comparisons across the past decade of the Head Start program to delineate trends and changes in the population served and the services provided. Data are drawn from the Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey (FACES), which was first launched in 1997 as a periodic, longitudinal study of program performance. Successive nationally representative samples of Head Start children, their families, classrooms, and programs provide descriptive information on the population served; staff qualifications, credentials, and opinions; Head Start classroom practices and quality measures; and child and family outcomes. FACES includes a battery of child assessments across many developmental domains; interviews with children’s parents, teachers, and program managers; and observations of classroom quality. In 2008, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) funded Mathematica Policy Research and its partners—Educational Testing Service and Juárez and Associates—to design and conduct FACES 2009.
FACES 2009 is the fifth in a series of national cohort studies—previous cohorts were initiated in 1997, 2000, 2003, and 2006. The FACES 2009 child sample was selected to represent 3- and 4-year-old children as they entered their first year of the program, drawing on participants from 60 selected programs from across the country. Successive samples of Head Start children, their families, and programs provide a rich source of ongoing information on the children and families served by Head Start and on the programs and staff providing these services. Interviews, observations, and assessments carried out on a recurring basis provide the means for assessing how the program is performing, currently and over time, in response to changing demographics and policy mandates.