seal  Purdue News

June 5, 2003

Expert says Head Start OK as is

A Purdue University Head Start researcher says the national movement to place the federal preschool program under individual states' control would do more harm than good.

"Head Start is not broken, so why make radical and risky changes in its funding and administration?" asks James Elicker, a professor of child development and former Head Start teacher, education coordinator and state training coordinator.

"There is substantial evidence that Head Start improves the health, school readiness and long-term educational outcomes of low income children, as well as provides needed support and education for their parents. The program has extremely high customer satisfaction ratings, too," says Elicker, who is conducting research with three Early Head Start programs in Lafayette, Kokomo and Marion. He also worked for Head Start for 10 years.

Elicker says that if the states inherit control of the program, it is likely the current comprehensive focus for Head Start will be lost. This change could eliminate critical services, such as promoting children's social and emotional well-being in addition to their academic skills, health and dental screenings and treatment, mental health services, parent-education programs and social services.

"Also, it is my understanding that the proposed legislation does not strongly mandate states to follow the current national Head Start program performance standards," Elicker says.

"These performance standards have been the keystone of Head Start’s quality and improvements over the past 37 years. If the performance standards are loosened, or if states are able to set their own standards according to changing political whims, Head

Start as a high-quality national program for low-income children will soon be dismantled."

CONTACT: James Elicker, (765) 494-2938,