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Those with 'Head Start' Caught by the Pack in School

PHOTO: Wilson and Banyan Doh are learning through play at Community Action Partnership of Ramsey and Washington County  Head Start. Courtesy of CAP.
PHOTO: Wilson and Banyan Doh are learning through play at Community Action Partnership of Ramsey and Washington County Head Start. Courtesy of CAP.
December 31, 2012

DULUTH, Minn. - Some concerns are being raised that results of some of the work in getting children ready for kindergarten may be lost during their first few years of school.

Gayle Kelly, the executive director of the Minnesota Head Start Association, says a national study found that Head Start does its job in getting children prepared, but those benefits can later begin to slip away.

"The children that were in the Head Start study group were significantly more ready for school than the control group on every measure and every domain. What the new study showed is a troubling trend that the benefits of that kindergarten readiness has flattened out when they've tracked children from kindergarten through third grade."

Kelly says it's unclear exactly what is causing the flattening-out and more study is needed.

Despite that flattening-out of improvement, Kelly says, it's been shown time and again that getting children a Head Start pays dividends in the long run.

"We have many studies, over four decades of work, that show the long-term effects of early care and education programming: lower need for special education, better health for teens and adults, higher high school and college graduation rates, and greater participation of parents in their children's education."

In Minnesota, Kelly says, they've been collecting Head Start assessment data for a number of years.

"And the area that we've been so excited about is the growth here in Minnesota in literacy. We have remarkable support through the St. Paul Foundation on Words Work and our Minnesota Reading Corps program, and so we have seen some tremendous growth and improvement in the area of literacy."

Many of the Head Start programs in the state are operated out of Minnesota Community Action agencies.

More information is at MNHeadStart.org.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN