September 8, 2009: Competing, Collaborating and Evolving
September 9, 2009: Seeking Signs of Change Since 2007
September 11, 2009: Checking Assumptions on School Readiness
September 15, 2009: A Tilt Toward Literacy
September 17, 2009: The Case for 'Comprehensive Services'
September 18, 2009: The Benjamin Buttonization of Head Start
September 21, 2009: Where is Head Start Heading? Three Potential Tracks
September 22, 2009: Live Chat: The Future of Head Start
This is the sixth post in a seven-part series on the future of Head Start. Please join us for a web chat on this topic on Tuesday, Sept. 22 at 12:30 p.m. EDT here at EarlyEdWatch.org. We invite you to email us questions to get the chat rolling.
Head Start may be about to turn 45. But you could argue that it's younger than ever.
Though many people think of Head Start as a program aimed at 4-year-olds, it actually enrolls children at 3 and 4 in the hopes of immersing them in two full years of early childhood services before their arrival in kindergarten. Lately, Head Start's enrollment has started to shift, serving an increasing proportion of 3-year-olds and a decreasing proportion of 4-year-olds. In 2008, 3-year-olds comprised 36 percent of Head Start's enrollment, up from 28 percent in 2006. At the same time, enrollment of 4-year-olds dropped to 50 percent from 56 percent over those two years.
In 1995, when Early Head Start was introduced, the program started to reach for even younger children -- targeting infants, toddlers and pregnant mothers. With the influx of stimulus money, the number of children and pregnant mothers served by Early Head Start programs is set to nearly double in size -- with money available to serve 117,000 babies and pregnant mothers instead of the 62,000 participating last year.
Could these new growth areas lead Head Start to become known as the program for pre-preschoolers? Are we witnessing the Benjamin Buttonization of Head Start, a program getting younger with each passing year?