Head Start can help, study suggests Former students are better off now

April 20, 1993|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- With the effectiveness of Head Start under attack, a widely followed long-term study suggests that the federal program and others like it for poor children can make a difference beyond the children's school years.

The survey, by the High/Scope Educational Research Foundation of Ypsilanti, Mich., has tracked 62 people since the late 1960s, when the participants were 3- and 4-year-olds and enrolled in the Perry Preschool Program in Ypsilanti. Sixty-one students in a control group not enrolled in a preschool program also were tracked, during the same time, between the ages of 3 to 11 and again when both groups were 14, 15 and 19.

The participants who attended Perry, now 27, have greater earning power, more stable marriages and fewer children out of wedlock than those in the control group, according to the latest installment of the study, which was released Sunday in Boston at a meeting of the Education Writers of America.

The participants who attended Perry, which was not part of a Head Start program but one patterned after the federal program, also had fewer drug problems and arrests than those in the control group, the study said.

"The biggest surprise is that I would have thought these kids would have been impacted by drugs and crime in the 1980s to a greater degree than they were," David P. Weikart, president of High/Scope, said of the former Perry students.

The survey has been widely followed since its inception as a national yardstick for the effectiveness of preschool programs, but the recent installment of the study has drawn more attention this time around as Head Start comes under attack by some early childhood-education experts as being ineffective.

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