National Head Start/Public School Early Childhood Transition Demonstration Study, 1991-1999

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The National Head Start/Public School Early Childhood Transition Demonstration Study, 1991 through 1999 was set up in the United States to provide information on the achievements of the Head Start program for children living in poverty.


Head Start, initiated in 1965, provides services to low income children with the goal of mitigating disadvantages in early learning experiences. Head Start provides services (in the areas consisting of education, health, social services, and parental involvement). Head Start claims that it can help children all across the United States.[1] The study began in 1990 when the United States Congress authorized a major program designed to enhance the early public school transitions of former Head Start children and their families. Former Head Start children, like many other children living in poverty, were at risk for poor school achievement. This new program was launched to test the value of extending comprehensive, Head Start-like supports upward through the first four years of elementary school. This project, administered by the Head Start Bureau of the Administration on Children, Youth, and Families, funded 31 local Transition Demonstration Programs in 30 states and the Navajo Nation from the 1991-1992 school year through the 1997-1998 school year and involved more than 450 public schools.

The National Transition Demonstration Study was conducted to provide information about the implementation of this program and its impact on children, families, schools and communities. More than 7,500 former Head Start children and families were enrolled in the National Study. Thousands of other children and families, however, participated in the Transition Demonstration Program, since supports and educational enhancements were offered to all children and families in the classrooms.

Organization of the data[edit]

Family Units[edit]

There are six family unit files. A family unit record consists of information about a child or family as the result of source data taken from family interviews, records of child test scores on a child instrument, school archival records, or teacher questionnaires (Part B). If data are available from any combination of these source documents, a family unit record is generated. A broad range of variables are included under this heading. Variables range from simple demographics to standardized scores of social skill ratings as well as neighborhood factor scores and child outcome scores in reading and mathematics. These files are associated with each year of the child's schooling (kindergarten through third grade).

School Units[edit]

There are five school unit files, organized around the year of data collection. A school unit record consists of information about a school as the result of source data captured from family interviews, a classroom teacher, or the school principal. The structure of this data file is different from others in that rather than being merged on a common key, the records are actually stacked one upon the other in groups. The first part of the file consists of family data, the middle portion consists of teacher data, and the final portion consists of principal data. A key variable to the construction of this dataset is the REC_SRC (record source) variable. It informs the user as to the source of the data in the record. The abbreviations are "fi," "ta," and "qp" for family interview, teacher questionnaire (Part A), and questionnaire for principals, respectively. The data viewed as the centerpiece of these datasets are the school climate survey variables and their associated factor scores.

Classroom Units[edit]

There are five classroom unit files organized around the year of data collection. The data recorded focus on the classroom and are from the following sources: classroom composition, assessment profile, a developmentally appropriate practice template, and a teacher questionnaire (Part A). Some of the data available address the social skills the teacher views as important to his or her particular classroom. Variables addressing diversity of both gender and ethnicity within a single classroom are included when available.

Exit Interviews[edit]

There are five exit interviews. Exit information is collected from the following groups: experimental and control families, family service specialists, school principals, and classroom teachers. These exit interviews are conducted upon exit from the third grade, and have been combined for both cohorts. The community characteristics dataset is a hierarchical file having four distinct levels of data. The type of information available in this file may include data that describe the site, county, school district, or study school.


[1] This links to the PreK-3rd Data Resource Center's website.

[2] This link to the full National Head Start/Public School Early Childhood Transition Demonstration Study, 1991-1999 takes you to Child Care and Early Education Research Connections project in partnership with the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research