Year of Publication



Martin School of Public Policy and Administration

Degree Name

Master of Public Policy

Executive Summary

Head Start, a nationwide early childhood program, promotes the development and use of locally-designed program models, such as partnerships with child care centers, to expand enrollment opportunities and improve service delivery to eligible children and families. Partnerships are considered to be an efficient solution with positive benefits accruing to the Head Start grantee, partnering child care center, and participating families. It is not known, however, whether partnerships differ from standard, direct-managed centers in terms of promoting school readiness among children, the goal of Head Start. This study addresses that question, undertaking an assessment of the impact, if any, that program model type (direct-managed or partnership) has on children’s assessment scores, a common indicator of school readiness.

This study relies on pre- and post-assessment scores, as well as child and teacher characteristics, from 686 children enrolled in 24 Head Start centers in Lexington-Fayette, Harrison, Nicholas and Scott counties (KY) during the 2007-2008 program year. The data are estimated using a value-added achievement educational production function model. Controlling for the effects of child and teacher characteristics, the data indicate that being enrolled in a partnership center correlates with higher post-assessment scores and greater assessment gain over the program year. This finding suggests that Head Start administrators and grantees may want to consider policy and programmatic decisions that support partnership programs. Further analysis of other determinants of assessment gain is recommended in order to better understand what features of the partnership program produce the best outcomes and, as follows, best promote school readiness among children.