Conducting Research


NHSA's 2015-2016 Head Start Research Agenda lays out 5 Principles for Research on Head Start:

  1. Research on Head Start should be framed by the goal of improving the early environment and developmental opportunities of children in poverty.
  2. Research on Head Start that examines any element of the program must consider the whole child and whole family approach that is at the heart of Head Start, rooted in the federal-to-local funding that enables communities to design programs based on local resources and needs.
  3. Head Start programs and practitioners should be integrally involved in the framing of research questions, the design of studies, and the adaptation of lessons from research for daily practice.
  4. Research should consider that families and communities vary in their resources and their needs and therefore require individualized interventions and respond differently to particular services.
  5. Head Start programs serve diverse children and families including American Indian and Alaska Native communities, migrant and seasonal workers, immigrants, refugees, and more; efforts to understand these programs should be as inclusive as possible of the breadth of communities and families served across the United States.

The Research Agenda also spells out 10 Priority Research Areas:

  • Academic Outcomes of Early Childhood Education
  • Longitudinal Impacts
  • Economics of Early Childhood Investment
  • Achieving and Sustaining Quality
  • Family and Community Engagement
  • Effects of Poverty
  • Social-Emotional Development
  • Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Assessment and Data Practices
  • Early Childhood Workforce

Framing the right research questions and then finding the answers is the work of everyone in the early childhood field, from funders at ACF to researchers and programs who collaborate to conduct studies to NHSA and Head Start associations who support the translation and dissemination of research to practitioners. Explore this section to find active funding opportunities, strategies for action research, and resources for finding a researcher or a program to partner around your most pressing questions.