This report examines the use of impact evaluations to determine
program effectiveness for early childhood programs. GAO (1)
describes the value of conducting impact evaluations, (2) describes
their current use in evaluating selected early childhood education
and care programs and (3) discusses the value of other types of
early childhood education and care studies the Department of Health
and Human Services (HHS) and Education promote and sponsor. GAO
found that many researchers consider impact evaluations to be the
best method of determining the extent to which the program itself
is causing participant outcomes. Two federal programs that focus on
early childhood education--Head Start and Even Start--are now being
studied using impact evaluations. Both of these programs are
intended to improve children's school readiness and educational
outcomes, including enhanced literacy. HHS is conducting two
studies on its Head Start program, which will cost about $28.3
million, and Education will conduct a $21 million study on its Even
Start program. Finally, HHS and Education promote and sponsor many
types of research and evaluation studies. The value of a varied
study agenda is that it provides agencies with answers to a broad
range of questions about program operation and allows them to align
research with the focus of the program.
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