American Elephants


Proved Once Again: Head Start Does Not Work. by The Elephant's Child

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If there is one thing that warms a liberal heart more than a good entitlement program, it’s an entitlement program “for the children.” Tugging at the heartstrings is a sure vote-getter and always popular with politicians.

For the second time in the last two years, a Congressionally mandated study of the Health and Human Services program Head Start has shown that it does not work.

In 2008, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) completed data collection for its third-grade follow-up study of Head Start, a federal preschool program designed to improve the kindergarten readiness of low-income children. Four years later, just before Christmas, the agency finally published the results of the congressionally mandated evaluation. The report’s publication date reads October 2012, meaning the final product sat at HHS for two months before being released. (After the election)

Since 1965, taxpayers have spent more than $180 billion on Head Start. Yet, over the decades, this Great Society relic has failed to improve academic outcomes for the children it was designed to help. The third-grade follow-up evaluation is the latest in a growing body of evidence that should urge policymakers to seriously consider Head Start’s future.

For the four-year-old group, compared to similarly situated children not allowed access to Head Start, access to the program failed to raise the cognitive abilities of participants on 41 measures. Specifically, the language skills, literacy, math skills, and school performance of the participating children failed to improve.

Alarmingly, access to Head Start for the three-year-old group actually had a harmful effect on the teacher-assessed math ability of these children once they entered kindergarten. Teachers reported that non-participating children were more prepared in math skills than those children who participated in Head Start.

Liberals have long cherished the idea that “social justice” means that the idea from the Declaration of Independence that “all man are created equal” means that everybody should be equal. Equality of outcome rather than equality of opportunity.

They are unable to grasp that you can’t make everybody equal. Some of us are brilliant, some are not. Some of us are beautiful, most of us are not, and so on.  So they’ve more or less settled for making everybody “middle class.” This is variously called “redistribution of wealth,” or” fair and balanced”, and gets us involved in all sorts of noxious ideas like “diversity” and “equality between the sexes,” Title IX, forced busing, Women’s Studies, Black Studies and so on, and on. And this is where Reynolds Law comes in:

The government decides to try to increase the middle class by subsidizing things that middle class people have: If middle-class people go to college and own homes, then surely if more people go to college and own homes, we’ll have more middle-class people. But homeownership and college aren’t causes of middle-class status, they’re markers for possessing the kinds of traits — self-discipline, the ability to defer gratification, etc. — that let you enter, and stay, in the middle class. Subsidizing the markers doesn’t produce the traits; if anything, it undermines them.

Democrats will fight to the death to preserve Head Start. It’s for the children. We would do far better to have training classes for new mothers given by Asian “tiger mothers” whose determination produces brain surgeons who are also concert violinists.

There was a day when parents assumed that the teacher was always right, and their kid was expected to obey. Now it is more the opposite, but you have 6-year-olds being suspended from school for pointing a forefinger at someone and saying “Pow!”— as “threatening to kill another student. Zero tolerance.

There is a lot wrong with our schools. We would do well to discard that which does not work, and try for something that does. Homeschooling is producing better students than our public schools. The answer is not always something “new.” We used to do a better job before there were Departments of Education in colleges and universities, Normal Schools turned out elementary school teachers in two years, and high school teachers went to college and majored in a subject.

How about imitating the schools that are really successful? Just an idea.

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