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After 50 Years, Head Start Struggles with Uneven Quality


For more than 50 years, Head Start has provided free early childhood education and other services to low-income families. But new national research, out Wednesday, shows great variation from state to state in how well the program works.

The study comes from the National Institute for Early Education Research, and it examined Head Start programs in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories. It focused on quality and ranked states accordingly. Kentucky and Vermont came out the best, while 18 states ranked very poorly: Arizona, Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

“This is the first time anyone has looked at funding, services and quality state by state, says Steven Barnett, a professor at Rutgers University who directed the study. The research was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (which also supports education coverage at NPR).