The Head Start Debates: Are We Failing the Children Most at Risk? 53 of America's Leading Experts Weigh In

Volume Editors: Edward Zigler Ph.D., Sally J. Styfco, John T. Bruer Ph.D., James A. Griffin Ph.D., Jane Knitzer

Format: Paperback, 592 pages, 7.0 x 10.0
ISBN: 9781557667540
Price: $39.95

Add to cart


The future of Head Start depends on how well we learn from and apply the lessons from its past. That's why everyone involved in early education needs this timely, forward-thinking book from the leader of Head Start. The first book to capture the Head Start debates in all their complexity and diversity, this landmark volume brings together the research and personal experience of 52 top experts in a wide range of fields—including education, research, medicine, and social work. This powerful compilation of voices mines Head Start's 38-year history for lessons learned, turns a critical eye on where the program is headed, and offers readers distinct and often contrasting viewpoints on three major issues:

  • Goals. Explore three crucial questions about the goals of the program: cognitive development vs. school readiness, short-term vs. long-term progress, and Head Start as an antipoverty tool vs. Head Start as a child development program
  • Effectiveness. Investigate the impact of Head Start on children's literacy, cognitive skills, health, school readiness and success, and parent participation—and learn how research might be improved so outcomes can be assessed more accurately
  • Future directions. Examine ways that Head Start might evolve to improve program quality, explore how to meet the child care needs of particular families, provide universal access, address administrative and funding challenges, and prepare children for lifelong learning

This compelling, urgently needed book will help readers understand the complexity of Head Start, shape future policy, and ensure that all young children will arrive at school ready to succeed.


Review by: Gerald Tirozzi, Executive Director, National Association of Secondary School Principals
"Brings into clear focus the significant impact of Head Start on our nation's preschool population . . . truly a tour de force for those policymakers and educators who want to make a major difference in insuring the development of our nation's most important resource—its youngest children!"
Review by: T. Brazelton, Professor Emeritus, Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School
"A tremendous contribution to a longstanding debate . . . This book encourages long-needed dialogue and collaboration among educators, clinicians, and investigators, and will significantly inform policy at this critical juncture in the progress of Head Start programs."
Review by: Sharon Kagan, Columbia University
"A powerful, balanced, provocative analysis of the most trenchant and durable issues facing our nation's pioneer and most promising social program. . . . [This] is the first no-nonsense compendium of articles that is audacious enough to speak truth to policy. It is tough love for Head Start . . . crisp, caring, concerned, compassionate, and right on target. Urgently needed today and, unequivocally, a classic for tomorrow."
Review by: Marian Edelman, President, Children's Defense Fund
"Another crucial contribution to the ongoing national conversation on Head Start — a discussion that has enormous implications for millions of America's most vulnerable children."
Review by: G. Lyon, Chief, Child Development and Behavior Branch, National Institute of Child Health Human Development
"Accomplishe[s] what no previous review . . . of Head Start has been able to achieve — a genuinely balanced analysis. . . . The writing is uniformly elegant and provides the reader with an insider's view . . . of the critical debates relevant to two major issues currently confronting the program—its effectiveness and its future."
Review by: Christopher Dodd, U.S. Senator
"Our children represent our nation's future. That's why this book is so important. It provides a thoughtful look at early childhood development and school readiness [and] brings together a wide array of experts with insightful analyses and commentary."
Review: Childhood Education
"So thoroughly do they examine Head Start, that an appropriate subtitle might be 'Everything You Wanted to Know About Head Start'."
Review: Education Week
"Gives a balanced view of the complex debates surrrounding the federally funded preschool program."

Table of Contents

Foreword, by Lisbeth Schorr

Debate I: The Goals of Head Start

IQ versus Social Competence

1. Early Educational Interventions and Intelligence: Implications for Head Start
Craig T. Ramey and Sharon Landesman Ramey

2. Familiar Concept, New Name: Social Competence/School Readiness as the Goal of Head Start
Rebecca D.A. Schragg, Sally J. Styfco, and Edward Zigler

Long- versus Short-Term Effects

3. When Psychology Informs Public Policy: The Case of Early Childhood Intervention
Martin Woodhead

4. Head Start-Revisiting a Historical Psychoeducational Intervention: A Revisionist Perspective
Irving E. Sigel

Poverty Warriors versus Child Developmentalists

5. Three Core Concepts of the War on Poverty: Their Origins and Significance in Head Start
Polly Greenberg

6. Was Head Start a Community Action Program? Another Look at an Old Debate
Carolyn Harmon

7. An Early Administrator's Perspective
Julius B. Richmond (with Jule M. Sugarman)

Debate II: Does Head Start Work?

Impact on School Readiness and Success

8. The Head Start Classroom as an Oral Language Environment: What Should the Performance Standards Be?
Catherine Snow and Mariela Páez

9. A Community-Based Approach to School Readiness in Head Start
Chaya S. Piotrkowski

10. Head Start and Evidence-Based Educational Models
David P. Weikart

Impact on Health

11. Head Start's Efforts to Improve Child Health
Robert W. O'Brien, David B. Connell,and James Griffin

12. The Challenge of Mental Health in Head Start: Making the Vision Real
Jane Knitzer

Impact on Families

13. A Persistent Pattern of Progress: Parent Outcomes in Longitudinal Studies of Head Start Children and Families
Peggy Daly Pizzo and Elizabeth Edwards Tufankjian

14. A Parent's Views on Head Start
Delores Baynes

15. A Former Head Start Student's Views
U.S. Representative Loretta Sanchez

Research Must Be Better

16. Does Head Start Have Lasting Cognitive Effects? The Myth of Fade-Out
W. Steven Barnett

17. How Well Does Head Start Prepare Children to Learn to Read?
Grover J. Whitehurst and Greta M. Massetti

18. New Possibilities for Research on Head Start
Deborah A. Phillips and Sheldon H. White

Debate III: The Future of Head Start


19. Head Start in the 1990s: Striving for Quality Through a Decade of Improvement
Joan Lombardi and Amy Stephens Cubbage

20. Quality in Head Start: A Dream within Reach
Gregg Powell

21. Head Start: A Decade of Challenge and Change
Judith A. Chafel and Heather L. Sugioka

22. Professional Social Work Involvement in Head Start
Arthur J. Frankel

Child Care

23. Head Start and Child Care: Programs Adapt to Meet the Needs of Working Families
Helen Blank and Nicole Oxendine Poersch

24. Are There Better Ways to Spend Federal Child Care Funds to Improve Child Outcomes?
Douglas J. Besharov

Universal Access

25. The "Failure" of Head Start
John Merrow

26. A Head Start for All Children
Gwen Morgan

Timing of Intervention

27. Dosage-Response Effects and Mechanisms of Change in Public and Model Programs
Arthur J. Reynolds

28. The Transition to School: Building on Preschool Foundations and Preparing for Lifelong Learning
Sharon Landesman Ramey, Craig T. Ramey, and Robin Gaines Lanzi

29. Early Head Start, Child Care, Family Support, and Family Policy
Sheila B. Kamerman and Alfred J. Kahn

(A Sub-Debate) Early Brain Development

30. The Brain and Child Development: Time for Some Critical Thinking
John T. Bruer

31. Critical Periods of Central Nervous System Development
Paul J. Lombroso and Kyle D. Pruett

32. The Environmental Mystique: Training the Intellect versus Development of the Child
Edward Zigler


33. Coordinating Head Start with the States
Wade F. Horn

34. Maintaining Federal to Local Management of Head Start
Sarah M. Greene

35. What Can Be Learned from State-Funded Prekindergarten Initiatives: A Data-Based Approach to the Head Start Devolution Debate
Walter S. Gilliam and Carol H. Ripple

36. Caveat Emptor: The Head Start Scam
John Hood

37. The Wisdom of a Federal Effort on Behalf of Impoverished Children and Their Families
Edward Zigler and Sally J. Styfco

Models for the Future

38. Head Start as a National Laboratory
Christopher C. Henrich

39. The Future of Head Start
Barbara T. Bowman

Customer Account

Create an account

Forgot password?

International Customers

If you are shipping outside of the U.S., please send an email with the total order and shipping address to before checking out. We will calculate your shipping cost, and you will complete your checkout using international postage units. Thank you!