The History of Even Start
The Even Start Family Literacy Program -- Title I, Part B, Subpart 3 of
the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) was originally authorized by the US Congress in 1988 with the first
grants awarded in 1989. Most recently the program was reauthorized by the Literacy Involves Families Together (LIFT) Act of
2000 and the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. In honor of its original Congressional sponsor and advocate, it became the
William F. Goodling Even Start Family Literacy Program.
Beginning as a small demonstration program in 1989, with $14.8 million that funded 76 projects nationwide,
the Even Start program has grown tremendously in years since, to $250 million for the 2002-2003 program year, distributed
to some 1,000 local projects in every state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. The number of families served by Even
Start has grown commensurately, from 2,460 during the 1989-1990 program year to an estimated 50,000 in 2002-03.
the U.S. Department of Education administered all Even Start grants, which were competitive at the local level. In 1992, most
Even Start local projects became state-administered when the appropriation level exceeded $50 million. The Department continues
to administer Even Start family literacy program grants for Indian tribes and tribal organizations, programs for families
of migratory workers, and grants for Statewide family literacy initiatives, and a grant for a family literacy program in a
prison that houses women and their preschool age children.
has amended the Even Start law a number of times. In more recent years, Congress amended the program law to require that instructional
services be intensive (1996), and added a definition for the term "family literacy services." In 1998, Congress also required
states to develop results-based indicators of program quality for adults and children and to use those indicators to monitor,
evaluate, and improve local Even Start programs. Most recently, in 2000 and 2002, Congress added additional amendments to
the program law that strengthen program quality. This resulted in what some have termed the new Even Start whereby there is
now an even stronger focus on accountability for results; highly qualified personnel; and the use of appropriate literacy-focused
strategies, based on scientifically-based reading research, in the teaching of reading and reading readiness.
(Adapted from the Resource Manual - Even Start Family Literacy).