What happens when a government program simply does not do what it is supposed to do?

Head Start, the federal preschool program, says it “promotes the school readiness of children ages birth to 5 from low-income families by enhancing their cognitive, social and emotional development.” But the government’s own evaluations have shown that it just does not do this.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released its latest findings of a long study that followed Head Start kids all the way to third grade.

The findings: “by third grade, the $8 billion Head Start program had little to no impact on cognitive, social-emotional, health, or parenting practices of participants. On a few measures, access to Head Start had harmful effects on children.”

Heritage’s Lindsey Burke, the Will Skillman Fellow in Education, and research fellow David Muhlhausen note in their new assessment of the study that the government finished collecting the data in 2008—and then waited four years before releasing the study on the Friday before Christmas 2012. That tells you how much the people in charge wanted you to know about Head Start’s effectiveness.

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