Abstract: (Withdrawn) Head Start Attendance and School Choice Among Head Start Eligible Low Income Children (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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(Withdrawn) Head Start Attendance and School Choice Among Head Start Eligible Low Income Children

Sunday, January 15, 2023
Hospitality 1 - Room 443, 4th Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Kyunghee Lee, PhD, Associate Professor, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
BACKGROUND: This examined impact of Head Start (HS) attendance on the school characteristics parents choose for their children after children left HS. HS is the largest federally funded early childhood education program, and it aims to promote equity/gaps on school readiness by providing health, educational, nutritional, social, and other services to low-income children and their families. In 2019, among 860,591 HS enrollees, the race/ethnicity composition consists of Black (28.5%), Hispanic (21.9%), White (24.3%), and others. Despite more numbers of Black (31%) and Hispanic (23%) HS eligible children, white children (10%) make up over a quarter of the HS population whereas Black and Hispanic children enrolled proportionally less among eligible children. This study investigates the relationships between at-risk children’s Head Start’s actual attendance, and the characteristics of the kindergarten they attended. Further, it examined whether HS contributes to any positive impact on reducing race/ethnicity gaps on school characteristics low income children enroll after they left HS.

METHOD: Based on the Head Start Impact Study data (n=2,945), the study compared kindergarten characteristics attended by Head Start (HS, n=1,679, 57%) and no-Head Start (NHS, n=1,266, 43%) children. Kindergarten school characteristics include free lunch, race/ethnicity composition, level of reading/math proficiency, years of teacher education, teaching experiences, and teacher belief/attitudes. Regression (linear/logistic) analyses were conducted to examine main effects of Head Start enrollment followed by interaction effects with race (White, n=945, 33.2%; Black, n=837, 29.4%, and Hispanic, n=1063, 37.4%) controlling for child (age, gender, special needs status) and family (residential location, language speaking at home, household risk factors, income) characteristics.

RESULTS: Regardless Head Start enrollment status, children attended a similar quality kindergarten. However, there was racial disparity on Head Start impact on school quality that children attended after Head Start. White HS children were likely to attend higher quality kindergarten. Comparatively, Black and Hispanic HS children did not attend better quality kindergarten than NHS Black and Hispanic children. For example, white HS attended kindergarten where less number of children received free/reduced lunch (higher level of reading/math test scores, teachers with experienced and positive teaching attitude teachers) than NHS white children. In comparison, black and Hispanic HS attended lower quality kindergarten (more free/reduced lunch, lower level of reading/math test scores, etc. than black and Hispanic NHS. Furthermore, the current study found racial segregation on kindergarten attendance; Black (White, Hispanic) children were likely to attend kindergarten that consisted of more Black (White, Hispanic) children. Children not speaking English as their primary language, and those living in urban area were less likely to attend quality kindergarten.

IMPLICATIONS: Since quality of school has significant impact on children’s developmental outcomes, Head Start impact should be examined not only on overall children’s education and social outcomes but on school characteristics children attend after they leave Head Start program. Head Start’s ultimate goal is to escape poverty through quality education for low income young children. Head Start impact should be done on whether Head Start could provide any bridge to escape poverty and to reduce racial disparity for children starting early childhood.