Head Start Case Study from 4 to 23 Years of Age: A Review of Commonly Used Predictors of Student Success

Felicia Mayfield
Clark University

John Tharpe
Greendale School District


This case study examines the events of a female (N=1) over a period of nineteen years. The purpose of the study is to analyze this individual as an exception to known predictors of hindrances to student success in PreK-12 matriculation. This study assumes that there is key insight to be gained by studying outliers in agreement with Osborne and Overbay, 2004 who stated, “Outliers can represent a nuisance, error, or legitimate data. They can also be inspiration for inquiry.” A brief review of the literature on the deleterious effects poverty, teen pregnancy, low SES school environment, and single parent homes confirms that for the overwhelming majority of students impacted by these variables, the graduation rates are significantly lower. …subsequently, post-secondary, higher education options are beyond reach. This N=1 at four years of age was promised while attending a Head Start program a four-year tuition-free scholarship to college upon graduating from high school. The promise became a powerful intervening variable for this student along with the mitigating variables of parent involvement, math acuity, specialized school choice options and church attendance. The significance of the study is that it provides an analysis of a population where millions of compensatory education dollars are spent on interventions. Conclusions and implications include meta-cognitive assessment of what worked in the subject’s experiences to break through the known hindrances to student success. At the time of publication, the subject was a senior Education major at Clark Atlanta University which was the sponsoring institution of the four-year college scholarship. This study is intended to provide researchers and practitioners an eye-witness account from a member of ‘failure demographics’. This study was conducted in the tradition of John Edmonds (1979) research on Effective Schools which examined the commonalities of schools where students performed ‘in spite of’, and the causal factors that could be generalized to give hope where there was a dim forecast.

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