The Failure of Head Start — Another Blow for IQ Realism
I teach courses on child psychology, and every textbook has a chapter on IQ. It’s always a bit touchy talking about it — I’ve got to be on my best behavior. I discuss the data showing genetic influences and then I point out that most of the “environmental influences” on IQ could equally well be explained by parent-child genetic correlations: Smart parents are genetically inclined to high IQ and they talk to their kids more. This results in correlations between IQ and parents talking to their kids.
But the chapter always ends on an optimistic note for the environmentalists because of the Head Start data. The standard line is that Head Start has a positive effect on IQ for a while and then tapers off to nothing after a few years. But the good news for environmentalists is that there are lots of other great things Head Start does, like improve academic achievement, prevent school dropout, etc.
However, the recent report on Head Start shows that there are no positive effects at all on academic achievement, social and emotional functioning, or health, even in the first grade. These are overwhelmingly poor non-White children — the future of America
As the Brookings Institute’s Russ Whitehurst notes,
The children in Head Start are overwhelmingly poor and minority. They are at high risk of starting school far behind their more advantaged peers, and falling further behind over time. They tune-out and drop-out at alarming rates. In a world in which nearly everything we value, from a long lifespan to financial wealth to family stability, is associated with educational attainment, these children’s lives are in danger.
So the ever hopeful left is back to square one. No positive effects at all. Indeed, things seem to have gotten worse: “In the critical area of vocabulary (a good measure of IQ), 3-year-olds entered the study at the 29th percentile in terms of national norms and finished first grade at the 24th percentile whether or not they attended Head Start.” They might as well have stayed home with grandma.
But because the ever hopeful educational establishment didn’t want the word to get out, they delayed the report for three years. During this time they sweated the data (as we psychologists say) to try to come up with some positive results. Not possible. And believe me, they were motivated. There are lots of private contractors and an entire bureaucracy to feed. They pulled out all the stops.
Actually, it’s quite surprising that they couldn’t come up with something positive, since, as Whitehurst points out, the same federal agencies that administer the programs are in charge of evaluating them. Short of making up the data, they couldn’t come up with what they wanted. It’s something of a miracle that they didn’t falsify the data. All for a good cause, you know.
But, as Whitehurst notes, when the report was finally released there was absolute silence in the MSM. The New York Times did not think it was news fit to print, nor did the Washington Post. I am still waiting for an article to appear in the LA Times.
Reports like this are just not the sort of thing that the left wants to hear, because it does not augur well for the future of the impending multicultural paradise we are heading into. I wonder if the next edition of my textbook will even bother to note it.
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