Head Start Programs on the Preschooler's Cognitive Term Paper

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¶ … HEAD START PROGRAMS on the PRESCHOOLER'S COGNITIVE SKILLS, MATH SKILLS, LANGUAGE & LITERACY SKILLS WHEN ENTERING KINDERGARTEN

The objective of this research is to examine the impact of that head start programs have on school readiness in relation to cognitive development, mathematical skills, language development and pre-reading skills. Research has indicated that preschoolers entering kindergarten are ill-prepared by the head start program because these children are still lagging behind the national norms. Alternatively, other research states just the opposite claiming that head start does indeed prepare children for entering kindergarten although improvements are still needed. The purpose of this study is to examine the impact the Head Start program has on preschoolers entering Kindergarten. Does the program work? Participation in quality early learning experiences has been identified as one such factor that promotes resilient outcomes for vulnerable children. Particularly for children from low-income families, participation in center-based preschool programs is associated with short- and long-term increases in achievement and school success.

RESEARCH QUESTIONS

The questions for this study are as follows:

1. Does the Head Start program cognitively (language development, reading / writing and math skills) prepare preschoolers for kindergarten?

2. How well does Head Start cognitively prepare preschoolers for kindergarten? Is it Low Average, Average, or High Average?

SIGNIFICANCE of the STUDY

The significance of this study lies in the fact that it will shed light on whether the Head Start program is successful in preparing preschoolers to enter kindergarten through provision of the development skills needed by students prior to entering kindergarten. This study will provide the Head Start programs with information that will enable greater coordination of curriculum as compared to the public school system. Greater collaboration would also result from the findings in this study through state and local governments in assuring that preschoolers are being adequately prepared for kindergarten and that these students are ready to learn. This study would also contribute to the stated needs for additional funding for the Head Start programs to provide optimal preparation to preschoolers for entering kindergarten. Finally, it is acknowledge in the U.S. states that the states are held accountable for student achievement in elementary school under the No Child Left Behind Act and certainly want to ensure that all children in the respective state enters kindergarten prepared and ready to learn. A fragmented system has effectively barred the states from making the provision of the comprehensive services required for children from low-income households if they are to enter kindergarten adequately prepared.

LIMITATIONS of the STUDY

The limitations of this study are related to time limitations, which have limited the scope of the literature reviewed in the course of this study.

INTRODUCTION

From the time an individual is born through the age of five years is a critical time of development for children in the areas of physical, emotional, and social development as well as in development of cognitive skills. Development in these areas will determine the level of success that these individuals will achieve in an ongoing manner throughout the lifespan. Children from low-income families, on the average tend to enter school behind the children from mid -- and high-income level households. The Head Start program was first implemented in 1965 in an effort to provide the opportunity for low-income children to reach a higher level of development prior to enter kindergarten so these children could reach their full potential along with the other children. Since the very beginning the Head Start program has possessed a reputation for filling a meaningful role and its' success is evidenced in the belief held by everyone including policymakers that the program supports fully the development of a child preparing that child fully for entering kindergarten. Because of the independent operation of these programs, it is questioned as to whether these programs are really successful. Recent scrutiny of Head Start claims that these programs are not coordinated in a manner that will best serve the children and the families in the communities throughout the nation. Federal and State funding for the Head Start program totals approximately $23 billion. Other programs claim to have the management methodology gained in training, planning and implemented in delivery of quality services as well as the regulatory process to make a substantial impact upon these types of programs. Head Start funding is channeled directly from Federal and State resource funding to the local Head Start programs within the U.S. states. Knowledge has been critically gained since the inception of Head Start in 1965 through research findings that show that knowledge and skill levels of low-income children are far below the national averages upon entering the Head Start program. After assessing school readiness in low-income children in the U.S. findings are clear that the gap in educational skills and knowledge needed for entering school have not been eliminated.

LITERATURE REVIEW

In the work entitled: "From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Child Development" published in the National Academy of Science journal it is related that a panel that was commissioned states findings that: "Striking disparities in what children know and can do are evidence well before the enter kindergarten. These differences are strongly associated with social and economic circumstances, and they are predictive of subsequent academic performance." (2000) This work holds that it is critical to once again address these disparities "...both for the children whose life opportunities are at stake and for a society whose goals demand that children be prepared to begin school, achieve academic success, and ultimately sustain economic independence and engage constructively with others as adult citizens." (National Academy of Sciences, 2000) the following chart lists the success indicators by different groups in the following labeled Figure 1.

Success Indicator Group and State Rankings

Source: "From Cradle to Career: Connecting American Education from Birth Through Adulthood (2007)

The work of Jane Waldfogel, Columbia University School of Social Work economist, states that Head Start is beneficial however, Head Start does not tend to: "... foster the same level of school readiness as school-based preK or the best-quality private programs, which serve predominantly white children." (Sadowski, 2006) the difference in is the types of programs which are generally in settings that are "less structured" than private or public-school kindergarten programs. This results in children viewing school as 'play' making the adjustment to the: "...more structured and academically focused" (Sadowski, 2006) environment of school very difficult for these children who tend to have "very poor social, academic and listening skills." (Sadowski, 2006)

In the 2007 Executive Summary of Secretary of Health and Human Services Advisory Committee on Head Start Accountability and Educational Performance Measures Final Report several recommendations are made inclusive of the following:

1." The major purpose of the National Reporting System (NRS) should be to support Head Start programs to provide quality programs that assure children will enter school with age-appropriate skills. To accomplish this goal, clear links need to be specified between technical assistance (TA) approaches and the NRS results. This recommendation includes but is not limited to the development of a clearinghouse of resources, research, and best practices that guide decisions about TA.

2. Benchmarks and determination of appropriate gains and outcome levels need to be specified for the NRS to become more effective in meeting intended goals.

3. The unit of testing and reporting should be at the child level, and materials and results should be provided to programs in a timely manner. Consideration should be given to allowing the NRS to replace some local assessment approaches.

4. Enhancements of the NRS instrument need to continue in order to expand content coverage, provide appropriate training, assure greater reliability and validity, and address issues surrounding children with disabilities.

5. Proceed with pilot testing of computer-assisted, adaptive approaches. Piloting of both approaches, computer and Personal Digital Assistant (PDA), should proceed. If both produce equally reliable and valid outcomes, cost should be explored. The use of manipulatives in language and math assessment should be addressed in the pilot test" (Secretary of Health and Human Services Advisory Committee on Head Start Accountability and Educational Performance Measures Final Report, 2007)

This report relates the fact that the children who attend Head Start are lagging behind others in school readiness and that this is believed to be due to the fact that:

some programs are not of sufficient quality to maximize children's growth in language, cognitive and social skills. Technical assistance and support for local programs are needed to assure that Head Start teachers use effective instructional practices likely to promote school readiness." (Secretary of Health and Human Services Advisory Committee on Head Start Accountability and Educational Performance Measures Final Report, 2007)

STUDY FINDINGS

The literature reviewed in this brief study states findings that more resources, technological assistance, and teacher training are needed in the Head Start programs in order to enable the provision of quality education to preschoolers that prepared these students in both social and educational skill development required to enter kindergarten ready to learn.

Bibliography

Waldfogel, Jane (2007) What the Children… [END OF PREVIEW]

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