NU study finds Head Start preschool may help parents’ education

Jeanne Kuang, Campus Editor

Northwestern researchers have found that the federally funded preschool program Head Start may help the parents of enrolled children improve their own education status, the University announced last week.

The study, published in late September in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, focused on whether or not a child’s Head Start enrollment affects parent’s education and employment status, according to a University news release.

The program is intended to help both children and parents of lower socioeconomic status and serves about 1 million children living below the poverty line.

Researchers used data from a 1998 congressionally mandated Head Start study of 4,000 newly enrolled children to find that parents whose children were enrolled in the two-year program beginning at age 3 saw more advancements in their own education compared to parents whose children were not enrolled in Head Start. The study did not find a correlation between Head Start and a parent’s employment, according to the release.

“Studies on early childhood education programs have historically focused on child outcomes,” said SESP Prof. Terri Sabol, the study’s lead author, in a University news release. “Head Start may provide the ideal place to promote parents’ education via a network of parents and staff, in addition to information and referrals to postsecondary educational opportunities.”

The study found the improved educational advancements were more strongly represented among African American parents and parents with some college experience but no degree, according to the news release.

Sabol said the study suggests that Head Start provides support for parents who are already trying to improve their education. The program may help parents by giving them a safe, affordable place to send their children while they go to work or school, according to the release.

“Parents who see their child doing well might be inspired to improve their own education and employment,” said SESP Prof. P. Lindsay Chase-Lansdale, the study’s co-author, in a news release.

Sabol called the study a “very positive story” for Head Start.

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