these skills are rarely able to catch up (Clothier & Poppe, 2007; Boots, 2005). Studies have used test-scores and data from early elementary years to predict future failings for students. Lack of academic and social/behavioral skills in the pre-kindergarten years have been linkedto later dropout rates, teen pregnancies, criminal activity, unemployment rates and depression (Boots, 2005). In addition, they consider that children who exhibit conduct problems (such as ODD/CD) at young ages are at greater risk for participating in delinquent acts in adolescence (Webster-Stratton & Taylor, 2001). Frequently, these children who fall behind have low-income or minority status (Laosa, 2005). The Achievement GapThe aforementioned finding speaks to the issue of the educational achievement gap, which
is at the forefront of policy reform discussions. The implementation of test-based accountability and higher curricular standards were meant to address and in time reduce this problem. Unfortunately, the divide between low-income and minority students and higher-income, predominantly white students is one that exists far before these children enter traditional schools (Laosa, 2005; Boots, 2005). To address this issue, the focus has turned towards preschool education. New evidence suggests that there is an urgent need to provide preschool education to more children, particularly those considered at-risk (Ramey, 1999; Jones, 1995). Many states across the nation are placing greater emphasis on preschools and how they can better serve their youth (Clothier & Poppe, 2007). Evidenced-Based FindingsEvidence shows that high-quality preschools can improve school readiness and academic achievement, particularly among low-income students, although the benefits are seen amongall children involved (Laosa, 2005). Preschools provide an opportunity for universal access to education, a proven method of combating the unequal start many children receive (Boots, 2005). The benefits of preschool are far-reaching, going beyond academic successes to otherimportant areas in life, such as healthy decision-making and future life choices (Clothier & Poppe, 2007). Conclusion Although focus on mental health services was initially defined as the foundation of Head Start’s “whole child” approach, the overall goals have shifted over time to focus more on school readiness and cognitive skill development (Jellinek et al., 2005). In 1994, Edward
Zigler, one of the founders of Head Start, led a task force which found that mental health issues in Head Start programs are considered low priority (Jellinek et al., 2005). These findings do not align with the last twenty years of research that have provided strong evidence linking a child’s healthy socio-emotional and behavioral development and adjustment to increased chances for early academic success in school (Jellinek et al., 2005). Not only does psychosocial impairment negatively affect a developing child’s ability to learn, but it also has adverse implications on the learning of other children (Jellinek et al., 2005).