Head Start

Local governments can invest in this strategy using State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
  • This strategy can address educational disparities and promote healthy early childhood environments. The U.S. Department of Treasury has indicated that strategies that help achieve these outcomes are eligible for the use of Fiscal Recovery Funds.
  • Investments in this strategy are SLFRF-eligible as long as they are made in qualified census tracts or are designed to assist populations or communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

Program basics

  • Federally funded preschool program serving predominantly low-income families
  • Local implementation allows for flexibility in service design, leading to a wide variety of program models
  • Services generally include education, health, nutrition, family engagement, and social services

Strength of evidence

Evidence level: Strong (second-highest tier)

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Strong (second-highest tier)

Ranked as having the second-highest level of evidence by the U.S. Department of Education What Works Clearinghouse


Target population

Preschool-aged children

Program cost

Federally funded with 20 percent local match

Implementation locations

  • Nationwide

Dates active

1965-present

Outcomes and impact

  • Positive effects on reading achievement
  • Reading improved by an average of 13 percentile points

Keys to successful implementation

  • Note: This section is under review
  • Define developmental goals and structure programming to help children develop age-appropriate skills
  • Use classroom and teacher evaluations to maintain accountability and plan staff training
  • Engage in a cyclical planning process built around Head Start’s five-year grant application, using program and community data to inform long and short term goals
  • Implement learning assessment and observation data practices to produce and track children’s progress
  • Collect program-level metrics, such as staff turnover, student participation, and student attendance rates
  • Plan career advancement and training for educators. Regular teacher surveys can facilitate this
  • Partner with community groups to provide a continuum of services for children and parents

Similar programs

Resources