Early Education Policy Alternatives: Comparing Quality and Outcomes of Head Start and State Prekindergarten

  • Henry G
  • Gordon C
  • Rickman D
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The debates over the 2003 reauthorization of Head Start highlighted a controversy about the devolu-tion offederal early education policy. At the center of the debate is the concern that state control of early education programs will reduce the quality and effectiveness offederal supportfor children liv-ing in poverty, and theirfamilies. The current fragmentation of early education policy, with both fed-eral Head Start programs and state-subsidized prekindergarten programs operating in close prox-imity, presents an opportunity to compare the programs' quality and effectiveness within a region of common support. In this study, propensity score techniques were used to match a probability sample of Head Start participants in Georgia with a group of children who were eligible for Head Start but who attended the state prekindergarten program in Georgia. The two groups were statistically simi-lar at the beginning of their preschool year on three offour direct assessments (p < .05), but by the beginning of kindergarten the children attending the state prekindergarten program posted higher de-velopmental outcomes on five of six direct assessments (p < .05) and 14 of 17 ratings by kindergarten teachers (p < .05). This study indicates that economically disadvantaged children who attended Georgia's universal prekindergarten entered kindergarten at least as well prepared as similar chil-dren who attended the Head Start program.

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  • G. T. Henry

  • C. S. Gordon

  • D. K. Rickman

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