Early Childhood Programs:

The Use of Impact Evaluations to Assess Program Effects

GAO-01-542: Published: Apr 16, 2001. Publicly Released: Apr 16, 2001.

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Marlene S. Shaul
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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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