Head Start

Research sponsored through Head Start funding over the past decade has provided valuable information not only to guide program improvement in Head Start itself, but also to guide the field of early childhood programming and early childhood development. Dozens of Head Start programs have collaborated with researchers in making significant contributions in terms of program innovation and evaluation, as well as the use of systematic data collection, analysis and interpretation in program operations.

Featured Resources

Projects on this Topic

The American Indian and Alaska Native Early Childhood Needs Assessment Project (AI/AN EC Needs Assessment) seeks to lay the foundation for understanding the need for early childhood services in American Indian and Alaska Native communities.  The project outlines a series of designs for future studies that will inform a national assessment of the unmet need for early childhood care, education, and home visiting services (prenatal to age 5) in tribal communities...

In 1997, the Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey (FACES) was launched to provide descriptive, nationally representative information on the characteristics, experiences, and development of Head Start children and families, and the characteristics of the Head Start programs and staff who serve them. FACES has historically not included Region XI, whose programs are designed to serve predominantly American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) children and families.

Project Overview

Through this project, awarded to Mathematica Policy Research, ACF seeks to learn more about how states and communities coordinate early care and education, family economic security, and/or other health and human services to most efficiently and effectively serve the needs...

The goal of the Assessing the Implementation and Cost of High Quality Early Care and Education (ECE-ICHQ) project is to:

  • Produce technically sound, systematic measures of the implementation and costs of education and care in center-based settings that serve children birth to age 5
  • Produce implementation and cost measures that can be used with existing measures of quality to examine the variation in ECE center capacities and resources that can make a difference in the experiences of children...

Project Overview

The Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) Implementation Research and Evaluation Grants program provides CCDF Lead Agencies the opportunity to (1) plan for and (2) evaluate initiatives and policies related to the CCDBG Act of 2014.

The Child Care and Early Education Policy and Research Analysis Project is a contract awarded by the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation to Child Trends...

OPRE’s child and family development work includes research and evaluation projects primarily concerned with child care and child welfare. This portfolio additionally examines the culturally diverse experiences of children and families served by ACF programs.

The purpose of this project is to explore how child care and Head Start programs can improve the quality of services received by young children, while institutionalizing continuous quality improvement activities. The project will design and assess the feasibility of implementing a specific approach to continuous quality improvement (CQI), the Breakthrough Series Collaborative (BSC), to promote the uptake and success of evidence-based practices around social and emotional learning (SEL) in both child care and Head Start settings.

Project Overview

The Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE) within the Administration of Children and Families (ACF) funds numerous data collection efforts through research studies on a wide-range...

Leadership is widely recognized as an essential driver of organizational performance and improvement, but little is known about its role in driving quality of early childhood programs and outcomes for staff and families. In launching the Early Care and Education Leadership Study (ExCELS), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE) seeks to fill the definitional and measurement gaps to help the early childhood field understand how effective leaders can improve quality experiences for families in early care and education (ECE) settings.

The Head Start Graduate Student Research grant program is designed to build research capacity in and knowledge of effective early childhood interventions with low-income children and families. The grant program does this by providing support for dissertation research conducted by graduate students working in partnership with local Head Start or Early Head Start programs. Many former grantees have become leading researchers who continue to conduct research that informs and improves Head Start/Early Head Start, other early childhood intervention practices, and our understanding of low-income populations.

The Early Head Start Family and Child Experiences Study (Baby FACES) continues a series of ongoing descriptive studies aimed at maintaining an up-to-date, extensive knowledge base to support Early Head Start policies and programs. Building on the findings from the Survey of Early Head Start Programs, and similar in design to the Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey (FACES) , Baby FACES aims to inform program planning, technical assistance, and research at the national level by...

    The overall goal the Early Head Start University Partnerships research grant program is to contribute to the knowledge base regarding how Early Head Start (EHS) and other early care and education programs can promote and improve early child development by supporting both parenting and caregiving. Researchers are working in partnership with one or more EHS center-based programs and/or EHS-Child Care Partnership programs...

    The Head Start CARES (Classroom-based Approaches and Resources for Emotion and Social skill promotion) is a large-scale group-randomized trial of three social-emotional program enhancements within Head Start classrooms. The project includes an...

    Project Overview

    Since its origins, Head Start has emphasized delivering comprehensive services that align with children and families’ diverse strengths and needs. A strength of Head Start’s approach has been its dual focus on offering comprehensive services that support both children and their families to improve child development in the long-term: coupling early care and education, nutrition, health, and social supports for children with parenting, self-sufficiency, health/mental health, and leadership services for parents.

    In 1997, the Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey (FACES) was launched to provide descriptive, nationally representative information on the characteristics, experiences, and development of Head Start children and families, and the characteristics of the Head Start programs and staff who serve them...

    The overall goal of this year’s Head Start University Partnerships research grant program is to contribute to the knowledge base regarding the role that Head Start can play in promoting family well-being, including health, safety, financial...

    In this project, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) is exploring the application of human-centered design (HCD) across its service delivery programs at the federal, state, and local levels. To date, little is known regarding what HCD looks like in the context of human services, the requirements for implementation across a range of programs; the measurable outcomes and effectiveness of HCD approaches; the evaluability of HCD approaches; or the sustainability of HCD approaches.

    The Human Services Research Partnership of the U.S. Virgin Islands (VI) will explore issues related to social service needs and public welfare systems in the territory. This cooperative agreement will support a partnership among researchers, local...

    OPRE plays a central role in advancing understanding and disseminating knowledge about research and evaluation methods and tools that are, or could be, used to enhance knowledge about program and policy effectiveness. The purpose of the Methods Inquiries project is to organize...

    The Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation worked in conjunction with the Office of Head Start and the Employment and Training Administration to develop, pilot and implement a Migrant and Seasonal Head Start (MSHS) Supplement to the National Agricultural Workers’ Survey (NAWS).

    The National Survey of Early Care and Education (NSECE) documented the nation's utilization and availability of early care and education (including school-age care) in 2012...

    The Network of infant/toddler Researchers (NitR) consortium brings together leading applied researchers with policymakers and technical assistance providers responsible for overseeing and supporting early childhood programs serving families during pregnancy and the first three years of life.

    The Quality of Caregiver-Child Interactions for Infants and Toddlers (Q-CCIIT) observation tool was developed between 2010-2014 to assess the quality of early care and education (ECE) settings for infants and toddlers in non-parental care—specifically, the support that caregivers provide for the social-emotional, language and literacy, and cognitive development of infants and toddlers. The Professional Development Tools to Improve the Quality of Infant and Toddler Care...

    This project builds on the earlier OPRE Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Human Services (RED) project. RED helped build a base of knowledge to inform the Administration for Children and Families (ACF)’s identification and understanding of ethnic and racial differences across the service delivery system... 

    The Administration for Children and Families (ACF), Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE) awarded one cooperative agreement in August 2011 as part of the funding announcement “Research Center to Support Secondary Analyses of Head...

    In 2013, OPRE commissioned four interrelated reports on self-regulation and toxic stress from a team at the Center for Child and Social Policy at Duke University. That team and other experts have since created multiple practice-oriented resources grounded in the initial reports. Together, these reports and resources comprise the ‘Self-Regulation and Toxic Stress Series.’ 

    In response to a requirement in the Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-134), ACF initiated this project in 2008 to develop a report on limited English proficient (LEP) children and their families participating in Head Start...

    The Quality of Caregiver-Child Interactions for Infants and Toddlers (Q-CCIIT) observation tool is a reliable and valid research-based observational tool that measures the quality of interactions between infants and toddlers...

    The Tribal Early Childhood Research Center (TRC) seeks to address gaps in early childhood research with American Indian and Alaska Natives through partnerships with tribal Head Start, Early Head Start, child care, and home visiting programs. The goals of the research are:

    The Secretary of Health and Human Services is required by section 649(g)(1) of Public Law 92-463 to convene an expert advisory committee to review and make recommendations on the design of the study or studies that provide national analysis of the...

    This grant cooperative agreement supported a Head Start American Indian - Alaska Native Research Center at the University of Colorado at Denver – Health Sciences Center. The purpose of the Center was to provide leadership and offer support in the...

    In 2001, the Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, began a two-year initiative to review existing information, collect new data, and explore research needs for American Indian-Alaska Native Head Start...

    This contract supported the development of a literature review, conceptual model, and  tool designed to measure teachers’ use of child assessments for individualizing instruction to support optimal development in early childhood settings...

    In 1993, the Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACYF) commissioned this investigation to study the diversity in language and culture of the Head Start population and to identify the range of services provided to this population...

    The Center for Early Care and Education Research: Dual Language Learners (CECER-DLL) is a cooperative agreement awarded by the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation to the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. The primary goal of the Center...

    In 1988, Congress, concerned about extremely at-risk low-income young children and families, created the Comprehensive Child Development Program (CCDP). The CCDP tested whether a newly designed community service delivery program could identify family...
    The purpose of the Descriptive Study of Head Start Health Services was to describe the Head Start Health Component across the four health domains: medical, dental, nutrition, and mental health. The Head Start Bureau required this information for the...
    In September of 2003, the Office of Planning Research and Evaluation (OPRE) contracted with Mathematica to prepare design options for potential evaluations of Head Start quality enhancements. In light of Head Start's significant focus on quality...
    To further the expansion of Head Start research efforts, the Head Start Act of 1998 called for continued evaluation and research activities that explore program quality and effectiveness, identify ways in which services may be improved, and contribute...

    The FPTRQ project  developed new measures to assess the quality of the relationship between families and providers/teachers of early care and education for children birth to 5 years of age. The measures examines this relationship...

    The Early Learning Mentor Coach Study (ELMC) was a descriptive study of professional development grants awarded competitively to Head Start programs. The Head Start Early Learning Mentor and Coach grants were funded in September of 2010 to 131...

    In 1992 the Administration on Children, Youth, and Families (ACYF) funded a 3-year project designed to evaluate the delivery of Head Start services in family child care home settings and to compare those services with the services provided in...

    In the fall of 2011, the Office of Head Start (OHS) significantly expanded its accountability provisions with the establishment of the Head Start Designation Renewal System (DRS). In response to requirements in the Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act of 2007...

    The Family Service Center (FSC) demonstration projects were initiated in 1990 to enable Head Start programs to provide a more comprehensive set of services to address problems of low literacy, employability, and substance abuse among Head Start...
    The Head Start Oral Health Initiative was created by the Office of Head Start to improve oral health services to young children, from birth to five years, and pregnant women. Supplemental grant funding was awarded to 52 Head Start programs to develop...
    Hurricane Katrina was perhaps the largest single natural disaster in America’s history. Millions of people were on the hurricane’s path. About half a million people in New Orleans were displaced by floods caused by Hurricane Katrina...
    The Head Start Bureau and the ACF Child Outcomes Research and Evaluation unit in the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation awarded five cooperative agreements in September 2002 under the Head Start Child Outcomes Research Support (CORS)...

    The project developed design options for a research study providing evidence for the most efficient practices in coaching within the context of Head Start professional development systems. Coaching is one mechanism...

    The purpose of this study is to help the Administration for Children and Families better understand the experiences and perspectives of families and staff participating in Head Start and Early Head Start, particularly around the topic of family...

    The goals of the Head Start Health Manager Descriptive Survey include 1) to describe the characteristics of Health Managers and related staff in Head Start (HS) and Early Head Start (EHS) programs; 2) to identify the current landscape of health programs and services being offered to children and families...

    The purpose of this project was to develop a literature review and conceptual model describing the key factors in organizational and management systems that promote effective early childhood practice with an emphasis on the use of data for continuous...

    The Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACYF) and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) awarded five research grants in 1997 as the core component of a new young children's mental health research initiative designed to develop...

    In 1995, the Head Start Bureau established four Quality Research Centers (QRCs) at (1) the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Center, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; (2) High/Scope Educational Research Foundation; (3) Education...
    The Head Start Bureau and the ACYF Commissioner's Office of Research and Evaluation awarded eight cooperative agreements under the Head Start Quality Research Center (QRC) Consortium to promote the school readiness of preschool children in Head...

    The Administration for Children and Families (ACF), Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE) awarded seven cooperative agreements in April 2008 under the Head Start University Partnership Research Grants: Strategies for Developing Head Start...

    The Head Start University Partnerships Program supported research conducted by university faculty members who form partnerships with Head Start or Early Head Start programs in their communities. The purpose of these partnerships was twofold...
    This grant program funds research projects planned in close collaboration with Head Start or Early Head Start programs. Grantees receive $150,000 in funding for the first year and $250,000 dollars in funding for each of two additional years...
    In September 2005, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE) selected six universities to develop curriculum for Head Start and Early Head Start. The grantees received three years of support...
    The Administration for Children and Families (ACF), Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE) awarded eight grants in September 2004 under the Head Start-University Partnerships: Measurement Development for Head Start Children and Families...

    ACF’s Hispanic Research Work Group brings together experts in a wide range of content areas relevant to ACF’s mission to assist ACF/OPRE in identifying research priorities concerning low-income, Hispanic families.

    In FY 2005 the Region III Office of the Administration for Children and Families initiated a pilot project, I Am Moving, I Am Learning (IM/IL), to prevent and reverse the negative consequences of obesity in Head Start children in 17 Head Start programs...

    ACF launched the Integrated Approaches to Supporting Child Development and Improving Family Economic Security project in September 2015. The goal of the project is to improve understanding of approaches that intentionally combine intensive, high quality, adult-focused services with intensive, high-quality, child-focused programs. Conducted by Mathematica Policy Research, this project will provide options for evaluating these emerging models...

     

    The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), and the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) within the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), and the...
    The unique characteristics of migrant and seasonal families are important concerns for the Office of Head Start. This study was designed to ascertain the state of research knowledge about Migrant and Seasonal Head Start (MSHS) programs, assess the..
    In its 2006 appropriations for the Department of Health and Human Services, Congress directed the Office of Head Start to sponsor a study by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to review and provide guidance on appropriate outcomes and assessment...
    In 1990, the U. S. Congress authorized The National Head Start/Public School Early Childhood Transition Demonstration Study project designed to enhance the early public school transitions of former Head Start children and their families...

    This contract aims to develop an evidence-informed research dissemination strategy for OPRE to improve the communication and usefulness of research and evaluation findings to targeted audiences...

    This project investigated how existing work on racial and ethnic disparities could inform more accurate identification and interpretation of ethnic and racial differences in programs administered by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF). Through this work, this project...

    This report responds to The Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act of 2007, Public Law 110–134, Sec. 635. [42 U.S.C. 9801] Sub-Section 649 (k) (1) (A-D), Indian Head Start Study, which requires a report to Congress detailing how the...

    The purpose of this task order is to generate knowledge about how Head Start grantees develop and utilize school readiness goals. The contract will support a study of the process used by Head Start grantees to define, measure, and prioritize their...

    This grant program provided funds to support secondary analysis of Head Start data from a number of Federal data sources, including the Early Head Start Research and Evaluation project, the Family and Child Experiences Survey (1997 and 2000 cohorts),...

    The Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE) is undertaking a descriptive study to document the approaches and strategies utilized by tribal organizations awarded cooperative agreements under the Coordination of Tribal TANF and Child Welfare...

    The Language Minority Roundtable was a working meeting where invited participants engaged in critical dialogue regarding how research can support efforts of policymakers and practitioners to serve the language and literacy needs of young language...

    Effect sizes are increasingly applied to describe the magnitude of findings about program effectiveness across a range of policy contexts. Though more researchers are recognizing the importance of including effect sizes in manuscripts, at times these...
    Good program evaluations assess program performance, measure impacts on families and communities, and document our success. With this information, programs are better able to direct limited resources to where they are most needed and most effective in...

    This compendium was created in response to the 2007 Head Start reauthorization requirement that programs use reliable and valid early childhood assessments and developmental screeners that are appropriate for the populations they serve. The compendium...

    Technology has become increasingly prevalent in early care and education settings, yet little is known about the effectiveness, function, and requirements for technologies that are available to early childhood programs. The purpose of this project was to review the knowledge base related to the use of technology to support the practice of early childhood practitioners who work directly with children and families. The review was conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago...