Research Partners

Using research to answer pressing questions about program design, effects, and impacts is an important part of every Head Start program. Head Start research partnerships can take many forms. Partnerships include:

  • Federally-funded national studies (e.g. program evalutions, descriptive surveys)
  • Federally-funded research grants to universities or graduate students
  • Locally-designed partnerships between programs and universities
  • Local graduate students carrying out dissertation research
  • Pilot studies for new interventions or practices
  • Adaptation of lessons from research from daily practice

For researchers who are interested in surveying or connecting with the Head Start field as part of their work, NHSA has three conditions: membership; value; and reciprocity.

Membership Value Reciprocity
The researcher's organization must be a member of NHSA. Researchers mostly fall under the Associate membership category.NHSA must determine that the research will contribute significant value to the Head Start field.The researcher must agree to produce a one-page, practitioner-friendly summary of the findings to share back with the Head Start field once the work is complete. NHSA reserves the right to recommend edits to make sure the summary is accessible to practitioners. NHSA will help with a wide distribution of the summary.

NHSA's Research Agenda lays out Five Principles for Research on Head Start

  • 1 Research on Head Start should be framed by the goal of improving the early education 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, 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, the data sets and sources, and the adaptation of lessons from research for daily practice .
  • 4 Research should consider that families and communities vary in their resources and 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.

Research Partners

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Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy

This partnership aimes to change the culture of health in Head Start by creating and testing an evidence-based wellness program for diverse staff and leaders.

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Harvard Kennedy School and Stanford University

NHSA is partnering with experts at the Kennedy School and Stanford University to study the impact of reappraisal training on Head Start staff and parents.


National African American Child and Family Research Center

NHSA supports the Morehouse School of Medicine's National African American Child and Family Research Center to advance high-caliber research focused on African American children and families.


National Research Conference on Early Childhood

NHSA engages regularly with the NRCEC to encourage collaboration among researchers, practitioners, and policymakers to build the evidence base for policy and practice.


Head Start: Code Ready

A research practice partnership aimed at providing resources and strategies for coding and problem-solving activities that are grounded in research, aligned with Head Start core values, and support broadening participation.

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University of Oregon Department of Psychology

NHSA supports two ongoing surveys designed to gather essential information regarding the needs, health promoting behaviors, and wellbeing of young children (age 0-5) and their families during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.