The Bush administration's proposal to overhaul Head Start would jeopardize its effectiveness and undermine years of research-based refinements and performance standards that have made it a model early childhood education program, according to a panel of psychologists who spoke at a congressional briefing on Capitol Hill in June. The event was sponsored by APA, the Society for Research in Child Development and the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
The Bush administration has proposed giving states control of Head Start funding and moving the program from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to the Department of Education. Developmental psychologists on the panel expressed concern that this would compromise the program and limit its reach. Panelist Hirokazu Yoshikawa, PhD, for example, said HHS is best equipped to administer program components catering to health, mental health, nutrition, family involvement and social services. In fact, said Yoshikawa, assistant professor of psychology at New York University, research indicates that Head Start and like programs "are more likely in the long run to raise rates of child immunization, increase school achievement, reduce grade repetition and reduce delinquency."
In addition, University of Chicago developmental psychologist C. Cybele Raver, PhD, said that Head Start "offers our best bet for supporting preschoolers' for early learning and school success." Other panelists were psychologist J. Lawrence Aber, PhD, National Center for Children in Poverty, psychologist Diana T. Slaughter-Defoe, PhD, University of Pennsylvania, and Head Start graduate Alshadye Yemane, the Urban Institute's Health Policy Center.
At press time, a House Education Subcommittee reported a revised bill to the full Education and the Workforce Committee. The revised legislation, which passed along party lines, refocuses the program's broad mission on early literacy skills and establishes a block grant program in eight states. The bill does not include the controversial proposal to transfer Head Start from HHS to the Department of Education.
--N.CRAWFORDAPA was also a collaborating sponsor of Head Start's Seventh National Research Conference, "Promoting positive development in young children: Designing strategies that work," held June 28-July 1.