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 overview

  • 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
Issue Areas
Early childhood
Target Population
Children under 5
Cost per Participant
Federally funded with 20 percent local match

Evidence and impacts


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

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

Best practices in 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