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Head Start

Head Start was launched in 1965 as part of the Lyndon Johnson administration's "war on poverty," with the goal of bridging the school-readiness gap that exists between disadvantaged and more privileged pre-school children. The program calls for extensive involvement of parents, and it attempts to provide the children with better preschool skills. Since its inception, Head Start has been extensively researched, and studies have shown mixed results. The immediate positive effects on children's school performance declined in subsequent years. But Head Start "graduates" are more likely to complete high school and less likely to repeat a grade or be placed in special education classes. Their families are also more likely to benefit from measures such as mental health services, nutrition education, and social services for the child and family.


Conger, John J. "Hostages to Fortune: Youth, Values and the Public Interest." American Psychologist 43 (1988):291-300.

Lee, V. E., Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, E. Schnur, and F. Liaw. "AreHead Start Effects Sustained? A Longitudinal Follow-Up Comparison of Disadvantaged Children Attending Head Start, No Preschool, and Other Preschool Programs."Child Development 61 (1990):495-507.

Zigler, Edward F., and Sally J. Styfco. "Head Start: Criticisms in aConstructive Context."American Psychologist 49 (1994):127-132.Zigler, Edward F., and Jeanette Valentine, eds. Project Head Start:A Legacy of the War on Poverty. New York: Free Press, 1979.

Sarit Guttmann-Steinmetz

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Social Issues ReferenceChild Development Reference - Vol 4