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Introduction

On its 30th anniversary, Head Start has much to celebrate. It also has to confront many social and economic challenges that have emerged since its 1965 inception. The lives of families and children who live in poverty today are more complicated and precarious than in the recent past (Houston, McLoyd, and Garcia Coll, 1994). Violence and substance abuse, periods of homelessness, and serious mental illness are increasingly commonplace among the families that Head Start serves. Accordingly, many perceive that the share of eligible children with serious behavioral problems and special needs is on the rise. Today's poor families are also likely to have complex and shifting family structures, highly diverse ethnic and linguistic backgrounds, and uneven education and employment histories. Many also display remarkable strength and courage as they struggle to provide for their children in less than hospitable communities.

At the same time, the prevailing expectations of these families, many of which are headed by single-mothers, now include training, education, and work. These new problems and expectations for families living in poverty are complicating the task of providing high-quality services to them. Fortunately, we have learned a great deal about the needs of young children and the attributes of services and supports that can assist families living under extremely stressful circumstances.



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Beyond the Blueprint Directions for Research on Head Start's Families 1 Introduction On its 30th anniversary, Head Start has much to celebrate. It also has to confront many social and economic challenges that have emerged since its 1965 inception. The lives of families and children who live in poverty today are more complicated and precarious than in the recent past (Houston, McLoyd, and Garcia Coll, 1994). Violence and substance abuse, periods of homelessness, and serious mental illness are increasingly commonplace among the families that Head Start serves. Accordingly, many perceive that the share of eligible children with serious behavioral problems and special needs is on the rise. Today's poor families are also likely to have complex and shifting family structures, highly diverse ethnic and linguistic backgrounds, and uneven education and employment histories. Many also display remarkable strength and courage as they struggle to provide for their children in less than hospitable communities. At the same time, the prevailing expectations of these families, many of which are headed by single-mothers, now include training, education, and work. These new problems and expectations for families living in poverty are complicating the task of providing high-quality services to them. Fortunately, we have learned a great deal about the needs of young children and the attributes of services and supports that can assist families living under extremely stressful circumstances.

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Beyond the Blueprint Directions for Research on Head Start's Families ESTABLISHMENT OF THE ROUNDTABLE ON HEAD START RESEARCH This is the context in which the Roundtable on Head Start Research considered directions for research that will generate a broader understanding of what is happening to families in Head Start and because of Head Start. The roundtable was established in September 1994 with support from the Administration on Children, Youth, and Families (ACYF). It will complete its work by August 1996, meeting nine times during its two-year lifespan. The purpose of the roundtable is to provide a systematic analysis of research needs relevant to the changing context that Head Start faces as it moves into its fourth decade. It is best understood in the context of two prior reports (see Appendix A). The report of the Advisory Panel for the Head Start Evaluation Design Project, Head Start Research and Evaluation: A Blueprint for the Future (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1990), defined a set of guiding principles for the selection and conduct of future Head Start research and evaluation efforts. These principles emphasized, in particular, that the highest priority for research by or for Head Start should be given to those investigations that hold greatest promise of providing knowledge about "which Head Start practices maximize benefits for children and families with different characteristics under what types of circumstances" (p. 3), and about how best to sustain these benefits. The Blueprint report also recommended an overall research strategy that recognizes the diversity of Head Start programs rather than a single large-scale study. The Blueprint recommendations were carried forward into the report of the Advisory Committee on Head Start Quality and Expansion, Creating a 21st Century Head Start (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1993). This report specifically identified the need to reinvigorate the role of Head Start as a national laboratory for best practices in early childhood and family support services during this period of program reexamination, improvement, and expansion. The roundtable is part of ACYF's efforts to fulfill this goal. The roundtable's broad charge, as articulated by Olivia Golden, ACYF's commissioner, is to inform the agency's efforts to develop short-and long-term research agendas that move the general set of principles recommended by the Blueprint report (see Appendix A) to more specific directions for the future. She asked that the roundtable consider research that does justice to the richness of Head Start, applies the Blueprint prin-

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Beyond the Blueprint Directions for Research on Head Start's Families ciples to specific cases, links to developments in the broader fields of early childhood and child development research, considers opportunities for partnerships with programs, and helps ACYF to identify significant questions for the next generation of Head Start research. The roundtable members were not asked to establish priorities among generated research questions or to develop a complete research agenda. More specifically, the roundtable's charge was to focus on the implications of the changing family, community, and policy contexts within which Head Start now operates for future research on the children and families it serves, with an emphasis on preschool-age children. Great importance was attached to investigations that can contribute significantly to increasing the quality and effectiveness of the program in furthering children's development. By request, the first three meetings of the roundtable were guided by ACYF's conviction that research to date on Head Start has not given adequate attention to one of the most distinctive and potentially powerful components of the program—family involvement and its effects on a wide range of developmental outcomes. Family outcomes were portrayed by ACYF as the untold story of Head Start, the source of many of the economic benefits of Head Start, and perhaps the explanatory link to its benefits for children. The agency was also interested in obtaining input into its new Descriptive Study of Families served by Head Start, the goal of which is to document families' trajectory into and beyond Head Start. In response to ACYF's interests, the roundtable's initial deliberations considered research that takes Head Start families as the unit of analysis and explicitly addressed research on Head Start in the context of family and community life. Its discussions, nevertheless, turned frequently toward issues regarding the quality of Head Start's developmental program—its curriculum, its staff, its direct services for children, and child outcomes. Several of the roundtable members felt that, although Head Start's family-level services and effects are critical and have been neglected in research, many of the basic issues for children also require concerted attention as Head Start enters a period in which its children may actually experience less parental time (due to employment and economic demands) and may—in some states—face diminished services in other sectors. As a result, some child-level research questions are integrated into the broad framework of this report, which was primarily shaped by the charge to consider research on Head Start's families. This is particularly evident in Chapter 3, which addresses research on the growing ethnic and linguistic diversity of the Head Start population.

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Beyond the Blueprint Directions for Research on Head Start's Families In subsequent meetings, the roundtable considered innovative efforts to assess preschool child outcomes, addressed ways of ensuring that investments in Head Start research reap greater payoffs through archiving and secondary analytic work, convened pertinent agencies and research teams to discuss critical elements of an integrated early childhood research agenda, and provided a forum for Head Start practitioners to identify their field-based research needs and interests. The impetus for creating the roundtable has several sources: Head Start has been chronically underserved by research, with episodes of low activity followed by periods of high activity. Of a $3.5 billion Head Start budget in 1995, about $23 million (approximately 0.6 percent) is allocated to research. The research on Head Start and other early intervention programs that has most influenced public discussion is now outdated and limited. For example, for various historical and practical reasons, IQ and school achievement tests dominated the early evaluations of Head Start. The diverse accomplishments of this complex, locally tailored program with several distinct objectives have been underexplored and thus constitute an untold story. The Report of the Advisory Committee on Head Start Quality and Expansion, Creating a 21st Century Head Start (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1993), specifically identified the need to reinvigorate the role of Head Start as a national laboratory for best practices in early childhood and family support services during this period of program reexamination, improvement, and expansion. Given a decentralized program, efforts to track program activities, let alone to redirect and improve them, require a strong and enduring infrastructure for Head Start research. An important step in this direction involves identifying the obstacles to establishing a national laboratory. THE ROUNDTABLE'S DELIBERATIONS ON FAMILY-LEVEL RESEARCH The departure point, then, for the roundtable's discussion of future research on Head Start families involved assessing, through a series of three one-day workshops, what is known about the demographics, life circumstances and needs of the eligible population and about efforts—within and beyond Head Start—to address these needs. The diversity of the Head

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Beyond the Blueprint Directions for Research on Head Start's Families Start population and its implications for the program, and hence for research, were also explicitly addressed. Box 1 summarizes several basic facts about Head Start programs and their clients. The discussions of the contemporary portrait of life in poverty that emerged from the workshops raised critical issues regarding the priorities that should guide the future development of Head Start programs. On one hand, Head Start was not designed primarily to meet the child care needs of full-time, full-year employed parents. Nor was it conceived to address problems of community violence, provide literacy and job training for parents, or ensure that the full complement of health services is provided to young children. On the other hand, Head Start's comprehensive mandate to improve the life chances of children living in poverty takes on new meaning as the composition of the poverty population and the conditions of these children's lives undergo dramatic changes. For example, how do Head Start staff attempt to engage children whose lives are constantly disrupted by violence in their neighborhoods? Such issues raise basic challenges to the original conception of Head Start. The roundtable members, through keenly aware of these tensions, did not attempt to redefine the goals that guide the scope of services that Head Start offers poor children and their families. They did, however, recognize that, because the face of poverty has changed, some adaptations are likely to be required if Head Start is to produce the outcomes for children for which it was designed. They sought to identify a finite set of issues for research that reflect the changing context of Head Start and, as such, have not received the research attention within Head Start that they warrant. Recognizing that Head Start is likely to face some difficult trade-offs in the years ahead, the roundtable members aimed to ensure that relevant data are available for future deliberations concerning the goals and scope of this long-standing, national intervention program. They sought specifically to move beyond general strategies and principles for research to specific, contemporary issues that warrant empirical attention. What next steps for research offer fruitful starting points for productive research sequences? SCOPE OF THE REPORT This report summarizes the deliberations of the first three roundtable meetings regarding research on Head Start families. Taking the Blueprint principles as its point of departure for developing

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Beyond the Blueprint Directions for Research on Head Start's Families Box 1 Facts About Head Start Head Start, first enacted as part of the Johnson administration's War on Poverty, is an early childhood program for low-income children that was recently reauthorized through fiscal 1998. Head Start is administered by ACYF of the Department of Health and Human Services. This antipoverty program funds community-based agencies to provide services in five component areas: education, physical and mental health, social services, nutrition, and parent involvement. As of fiscal 1993: To be eligible for Head Start a child must be living in a family whose income is below the federal poverty line, currently $14,350 for a family of four. Ten percent of Head Start children came from families whose income is higher than the poverty line; Head Start programs are comprised of both center-based programs and home-based programs. There are about 2,000 Head Start programs currently in operation around the country; 612 Head Start programs include a home-based program. Home-based services were provided to 49,442 children by 4,415 home visitors; A total of 713,903 children were enrolled and, of that total, 33,886 children were enrolled in Head Start's migrant programs. Since 1965, 13,854,000 children have been served; Overall, 24 percent of enrolled children were Hispanic, 36 percent were African American, 4 percent were Native American, 3 percent were Asian, and 33 percent were white. And 13.2 percent of the enrolled children had disabilities; In all, 3 percent of children served in Head Start were 3 years of age or younger. Infants and toddlers were served under two programs, the Parent and Child Center program (PCC) and the migrant program. There are no specific regulations governing Head Start programs for infants and toddlers; There were 129,800 paid staff and 1,157,000 volunteers; 81 percent have degrees in early childhood education or have obtained the Child Development Associate (CDA) credential; The average salary for a Head Start teacher was $15,000 and for an aide was $9,500; and Almost 33 percent of the Head Start staff were parents of current or former Head Start children. Over 706,000 parents volunteered in their local Head Start program.

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Beyond the Blueprint Directions for Research on Head Start's Families a more specific set of possibilities for research on Head Start's families, the report first outlines general themes that emerged from the workshops and that provided a conceptual framework for approaching Head Start families from a research perspective (Chapter 2). Chapters 3 through 5 focus on specific issues that emerged as central topics during the workshops and the roundtable's subsequent deliberations. They represent issues that have surfaced in recent years, as a result of changing demographic and social conditions of low-income families and, as such, have not been adequately explored by research: The challenges posed to Head Start by the increasing ethnic and linguistic diversity of the families it serves (Chapter 3); The need to embed research on Head Start within its community context, paying specific attention to the effects on Head Start and its families of violent environments (Chapter 4); and The implications of the changing economic landscape and the structure of income support policies for the poor for how Head Start works with families, and what it means to offer families a high-quality program (Chapter 5). Each of these issue-oriented chapters provides a brief synopsis of the topic, followed by a discussion of the researchable issues addressed by the roundtable members and suggestions for next steps for Head Start research. The next steps for research represent several topics that merit specific research attention because they have been neglected by past efforts, they are emerging as important social factors affecting the program itself, and they have important consequences for research on family-level effects and how to sustain them. The roundtable members distinguished three types of research agendas: (1) a descriptive agenda focused on understanding who is served by Head Start and what Head Start programs do in their day-to-day interaction with children and families, (2) an agenda aimed at identifying ways in which Head Start can mount high-quality programs for today's children and families in today's communities, and (3) an outcome agenda that addresses the questions ''Does it work?'' "For whom does it work best?" and "What are we getting for the investment?" This classification scheme guides the organization of the suggested next steps for research, which are presented in each chapter and summarized in Table 1. These agendas are, of course, interdependent. The question "Does it

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Beyond the Blueprint Directions for Research on Head Start's Families Table 1 Summary of Next Steps for Research   TYPE OF AGENDA Proposed Research Descriptive Quality Outcome Chapter 3: Recognizing Diversity       (3-1) Classroom language mix, instructional practices and child development X X X (3-2) Home-Head Start interactions in the context of diversity X X X (3-3) Participation in Head Start: Role of language, migrant and immigrant status X X X (3-4) Family support and linguistic diversity   X X (3-5) Program adjustments to shifting demographics X X   Chapter 4: Community-Head Start Linkages       (4-1) Family-level effects: parents' capacity to mobilize community resources X X X (4-2) Impact of community-level resources on Head Start X   X (4-3) Community-level effects of Head Start X X X (4-4) Exposure to community and domestic violence X     (4-5) Staff and parent views of the effects of violence X     (4-6) Head Start's role in violence prevention X   X

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Beyond the Blueprint Directions for Research on Head Start's Families   TYPE OF AGENDA Proposed Research Descriptive Quality Outcome Chapter 5: Families in a Changing Economic Landscape       (5-1) Income sources of Head Start families X     (5-2) Head Start's effect on parents' employment and earnings trajectories X     (5-3) Literacy and job training X X X (5-4) Parent involvement practices X X X (5-5) Cost-effective approaches to providing full-time, full-year care X X X Note: The numbers in the table correspond to the sections in Chapters 3, 4, and 5 that list next steps for research. work?" will be most usefully answered by research that examines where Head Start is working well, for whom, and why; where it fails; and how to make it better. The next steps for research suggested by roundtable members encompass each of these types of research and often blend several of them. Some of the issues that were discussed are so new to Head Start that purely descriptive research is a logical first step (e.g., research on community and domestic violence, and on the income sources of Head Start families). Others are more amenable to research designs that emphasize issues of quality and effectiveness (e.g., research on the role of family support staff with linguistically and ethnically diverse families). Table 1 provides a summary of suggested next steps for research organized by the three types of research agendas. It is important to emphasize that, although the roundtable members focused mainly on "what to study" rather than on "how to study it," they acknowledged the difficulties of conducting research on Head Start that produces valid estimates of program effects. This difficulty arises from several sources: (1) it is difficult and costly to implement randomized trials

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Beyond the Blueprint Directions for Research on Head Start's Families and other designs known to produce unbiased estimates of Head Start programs (e.g., experimentally intervening in Head Start programs to create quality differences), (2) there is no broad consensus regarding the parameters of an appropriate control group for a study of Head Start's effects, and (3) there is an inadequate research base with which to judge the validity of estimates of Head Start produced by other methodological approaches (e.g., comparing groups that are different using statistical controls for observable differences). A fundamental concern that conditioned and influenced all the roundtable deliberations was the possibility that federal and private funding for Head Start research may become increasingly scarce. In this context, it becomes imperative for the agency to have in place an infrastructure that creates and maintains a research agenda that is collaborative, is focused, and can produce the knowledge needed for improving the effectiveness of Head Start. The roundtable, recognizing that ACYF not only funds research in Head Start but is also the agency whose future can be most affected by this research, also touched on the importance of broadening responsibility for Head Start research to include research agencies and private foundations. Indeed, the membership of the roundtable includes representation from these sectors in part to signify the range of institutions that are suited to contribute to the future of research on Head Start. The roundtable's initial discussion of infrastructure issues is reflected in Chapter 6, which acknowledges that programmatic local innovation merits research attention in order to import its successful experiences to other programs. In this context, the synergy between researchers and program staff is critical and highlights a fundamental need to build a research infrastructure for Head Start. Along these lines, this report summarizes the roundtable's discussions of the role of research in documenting and extending the lessons gained from programs that have adopted particularly innovative approaches to addressing the needs of today's families in poverty. It is important to emphasize that the report touches only lightly on Head Start's educational program, peer relations and social skills, child outcomes, sibling effects, health, and other dimensions of its child-focused goals. This should not be construed as reflecting any lack of concern on behalf of the roundtable about these issues. Rather, it reflects ACYF's specific charge to the roundtable to focus on research that takes as its primary concern Head Start families and family-level effects insofar as they mediate effects on children in the short and longer term. Consequently,

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Beyond the Blueprint Directions for Research on Head Start's Families the research agenda on Head Start's families outlined in this report is not to be regarded as a frame for the entirety of Head Start research. There are still many issues about the content of the program and effects on children's learning and development that need to be resolved. Each of the topics addressed in this report generated lively discussion that included divergent points of view about the most appropriate next steps for research. This report does not offer consensus recommendations for research directions on Head Start's families. Rather, it points to several promising next steps for research that hold the potential to reinvigorate Head Start's role as a national laboratory, link research on Head Start to other exciting developments in allied fields of research, and ensure that research on Head Start is immediately relevant to the program's efforts to provide high-quality, effective services.