Improving Educational Policies and Practices in Migrant and Seasonal Head Start

Advancing equitable access and research-based improvements to policy and practice

Migrant and seasonal farmworkers have been an irreplaceable part of the United States’ agricultural economy for decades. Ensuring that the young children of those workers will be ready to succeed in school has been an important part of Head Start since 1969. The Migrant and Seasonal Head Start (MSHS) program provides early intervention services to more than 28,000 young vulnerable children living in poverty and their farmworker families. In 2017, a nationally-representative study was conducted to examine the strengths and needs of MSHS children, families, and providers. With a grant from the Spencer Foundation, NORC will co-lead a collaborative research-practice partnership ensuring the accessibility and impact of this data source.  In partnership with The Catholic University of America and the National Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Association (NMSHSA), the project’s goals include working collaboratively with MSHS programs and families across the country to:

  1. Engage in secondary data analyses of the MSHS Study data
  2. Interpret and disseminate findings to inform program and policy decisions
  3. Develop an ongoing research agenda that is responsive to the strengths and needs of the migrant and seasonal farmworker families and programs 

Empowering Practitioners

To amplify the voice of the MSHS community and ensure that our work is as immediately impactful as possible, the project is structured as a collaborative research-practice partnership. MSHS providers, families, and policy makers will help shape the questions asked, the kinds of analyses conducted, and the dissemination methods deployed.

Research capacity-building is an important part of our work, including the dissemination goals. To that end, the team will build a web-based interactive data portal that will support members of the MSHS community in conducting their own data analyses and developing reports and data visualizations using this rich data set.

Driving Diversity

Another critical part of the MSHS research-practice partnership project is the way it supports NORC’s goal of diversifying the workforce. The project includes support for two emerging research scholars who will be an active part of the project team and work under the mentorship of Co-Principal Investigator Dr. Michael López. Our other Co-Principal Investigators (Dr. Sandra Barrueco from The Catholic University of America and Mr. Cleofas Rodriguez from the NMSHSA) will be mentoring graduate students and interns. Together, these activities will contribute to training and mentoring the next generation of emerging scholars in research-practice partnerships. 

Research Team

Spencer MSHS Study Team

Contact/Project Director

Elizabeth Villegas
Principal Research Analyst

Infographics and Visualizations



View All