"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Head Start and Hurricane Sandy: Expensive Disasters?

Disasters:  Some are man-made and some are natural. 

Who would have thought federal funding for Hurricane Sandy victims would include money for Head Start? Why was more money for Head Start included in this package when it has been admitted by Health and Human Services (HHS) the programs has been a failure in creating long term educational results for children?

According to Jay P. Greene in Head Start Revealed:

Despite the obvious effort to delay and conceal the disappointing results from the official and high quality evaluation of Head Start, the Wall Street Journal shines the light on the issue in today’s editorial.  DC’s manipulating scumbags might want to take note that efforts to hide negative research might just draw more attention.  It’s comforting to see that the world may sometimes look more like Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment than Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors.

The Journal reveals that Head Start supporters have not only ignored the latest study, but they are trying to sneak an extra $100 million for Head Start into the relief package for victims of Hurricane Sandy.  They also note that the most recent disappointing Head Start result is just the latest in a string of studies failing to find benefits from the program despite a cumulative expenditure of more than $180 billion.

Heritage Foundation reports on the study:

The timing of the release raises questions about whether HHS was trying to bury the findings in the report, which shows, among other outcomes, that by third grade, the $8 billion Head Start program had little to no impact on cognitive, social-emotional, health, or parenting practices of participants. On a few measures, access to Head Start had harmful effects on children.

Now that the report has finally been published, the findings of the scientifically rigorous evaluation that tracked 5,000 three- and four-year-old children through third grade should inform federal policymakers who allocate billions of dollars annually to Head Start. Moreover, Congress will soon vote on a supplemental aid package to Hurricane Sandy victims that includes $100 million in additional Head Start funding. The Senate Appropriations Committee notes that 265 Head Start centers will receive the funding, which equates to more than $377,000 per center.
...President Obama has pledged to use only one test when determining which education programs to fund: “It’s not whether an idea is liberal or conservative,” Obama stated, “but whether it works.”   HHS’s third-grade follow-up evaluation makes it unequivocally clear that Head Start fails that test.
HHS has released definitive evidence that the federal government’s 48-year experiment with Head Start has failed children and left taxpayers a tab of more than $180 billion. In the interest of children and taxpayers, it’s time for this nearly half-century experiment to come to an end. If the federal government continues to fund Head Start, policymakers should allow states to make their Head Start dollars portable, following children to a private preschool provider of choice.

So why is the Federal Government funding a program (slipping it into a hurricane relief package) that does not deliver the desired results?  In Texas, the clamor in the legislature for more federal funding for education gives you an idea of this type of government thinking and doling out money.  From texastribune.com:

The 83rd Legislature started with good news from the state comptroller: Susan Combs told lawmakers they’d have more than $101 billion to spend in the next session. Education advocates are already asking for more dough to head to Texas classrooms, including preschools.

Kara Johnson, with Texans Care for Children, a child advocacy group, quotes a 2006 study from the Bush school at Texas A&M University that shows it’s smart budgeting to support early childhood education.

“What the study found was that when you invest in high-quality care — the key is high quality — you get a 350 percent return on your investment," Johnson said. "Every dollar invested $3.50 back for local communities. And that’s at a minimum.”

Education is a good return on investment....to whom and for whom?  Local communities receive a 350% in what manner?  More bureaucratic jobs?  What does the child receive?  A "head start" in schooling that disappears by third grade?

The study Ms. Johnson references is not linked so it is difficult to determine exactly how many children were tested, if they had learning disabilities, were ESL students, low income, etc...and how these results were reached.  It is also impossible to determine if these children were followed after preschool and if so, how long the children were tracked.  There is also no definition of what is "high quality" and who/what agency determines the measurements.

Is an additional $100 Million Head Start investment and the increased call for universal  preschool for all children a good investment in education for the students or is it a good investment for the providers of mandated/federally funded initiatives?  As the WSJ article states in Greene's article:

Like so many programs directed at the poor, Head Start is well-intentioned, and that’s enough for self-congratulatory progressives to keep throwing money at it despite the outcomes. But misleading low-income parents about the efficacy of a program is cruel and wastes taxpayer dollars at a time when the country is running trillion-dollar deficits.

A government that cared about results would change or end Head Start, but instead Congress will use the political cover of disaster relief to throw more good money after proven bad policy.

That  proven "bad policy" of enrolling children in preschool seems to be overlooked by Kirkwood (MO) School District as well.  From The Kirkwood Webster Times:

Kirkwood Early Childhood Center Principal Melissa Sandbothe presented the board with an update on the center.

Sandbothe has her sights set on the future with the goal of developing a pilot design for universal preschool in Kirkwood. The purpose of the initiative is to give parents meaningful choice and assistance in choosing the child care and education arrangements that are right for their family when preparing their child for kindergarten. (MEW note on bolded sentence: Is Sandbothe stating preschool is ultimately a child care arrangement since the educational gains do not last much past 3rd grade?) The primary goal is to provide a community-wide system of quality early childhood options that allow every age-eligible Kirkwood resident student to access one year of high quality pre-kindergarten education. The estimated budget for implementing such a pilot program is $825,000.

Sandbothe, who stressed that the initiative is still just a vision, said she wants to implement the program so all children have an opportunity to attend preschool.

"The goal is to provide access to children who wouldn't otherwise have it - that's my long-term goal and vision for the community," she said. "I know there are a lot of questions and I don't have all of the answers, but I want to start the conversation."

Greene's article had one comment that may answer "why" Congress, school districts and states are throwing more good money after proven bad policy.  They might want to ponder the reason "why" before more time and money are spent on programs that have been proven not to attain their goals:
I find that the history of Head Start made far more sense once I knew Professor Mastery Learner that became Outcomes Based Education, Benjamin Bloom, was also the father of Head Start.

I also found it interesting that Head Start officially added a social and emotional learning component last year just like the real Common Core implementation where it is coming in as PBIS under RTI and the federal disabilities law, a Positive School Climate executive order, and many of those NCLB waivers to the states.

That SEL provision to Head Start also dovetails to the timing of AdvancED, the accreditation holding company, beginning to accredit early learning programs. Since the K-12 Quality Standards are all about the physical, emotional, and social needs of students with no mention of intellectual, we can expect something comparable for the little tykes. That’s a lot of years of affective manipulation as part of the student Growth and achievement being measured.

Am I the only one who tracks back to the definitions of the terms being used? It puts the Common Core in a completely different but accurate light than the hype.

The reader may have a valid point.  Reformers are trying to corral 3 year old children under Common Core like standards to gather student data for a managed workforce and/or to supply "free" daycare.  Outcome based education and state run daycare may finally be realized.  Maybe this is what Texans Care for Children, school districts and legislators have in mind for the ROI on money spent on preschoolers. 

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