Letter: Here’s what Head Start can do for kids

EDITOR: A recent USA Today editorial republished by Stevens Point Journal Media praised the Obama administration for its commitment to invest in quality early childhood education services. At the same time, however, it questioned the long-term benefits in investments made in Head Start.

Head Start is a national program that aims to promote school readiness in our youngest children. Its focus is development of the whole child and includes a variety of learning experiences that foster intellectual, social and emotional growth and access to health services. It engages parents, supporting and reinforcing their role as their child’s first teacher. Supportive environments that create a foundation for lifelong learning are provided.

The national Head Start Family and Child Experience Survey reports children come to Head Start with a range of knowledge and skills, with some scoring above the national averages. But most children come with below-average academic skills, particularly in vocabulary and math. Data from 2009 and 2010 shows Head Start children made gains in vocabulary, early reading, early writing and early math. Additionally, children showed growth in positive approaches to learning and a reduction in behavior problems. Parents are engaged, too — more than 80 percent attend parent-teacher conferences.

An Oct. 2013 report by the advocacy group CLASP found that 91 percent of Head Start children and 85 percent of Early Head Start children received a medical screening. Nearly 12 percent had a disability (13 percent in Early Head Start), with 45 percent diagnosed after enrollment! Early intervention and services are simply invaluable.

CAP Services’ Head Start program has similar school readiness results. All Head Start children showed growth in each learning area in the Fall 2012-Spring 2013 school year. These include: social/emotional, large and small motor skills, language, cognition, literacy and math. Goals are developmentally appropriate and align with state learning guidelines. You can find more at www.capservices.org. Click on Programs/Early Childhood Development/Head Start and on the “Annual Report.”

The editorial suggests Head Start is ineffective because these gains are lost by third grade. You should ask two questions. How would these children fare without the Head Start experience? And why are the gains lost over time attributed to Head Start, well after children leave the program?

Mary Patoka,
CAP Services Inc.,
Stevens Point

Source URL: https://www.stevenspointjournal.com/