Dad and BabyIn an announcement to Head Start grantees and delegate agencies last week, the Office of Head Start reminds agencies of their right to shift funding from services for Head Start preschool age children to Early Head Start services, whether or not they currently operate an Early Head Start program.

Early Head Start is a program that provides child development and family support services to low-income families with children under three years of age and pregnant women and their families.

According to the announcement, this ability to shift funds in order to convert enrollment slots was written into the Head Start Act of 2007 as a way for agencies to more easily adapt to the changing needs of their communities. Particularly since states and localities have increased their funding of public pre-K programs that may now serve children previously served by Head Start. Special considerations for American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) grantees were also written into the law. If the AIAN program operates both a Head Start and Early Head Start program, they may reallocate funds between programs at their discretion.

Requests for conversion of enrollment slots can be made during the refunding application or through a separate grand amendment. For more details on exactly now agencies can begin the process, click to read the full announcement.

 

In a recent story in The Blade, board members of the  Economic Opportunity Planning Association (EOPA) questioned how the agency is preparing to reapply for a $13 million grant to continue running its Toledo Head Start agency.

Due to the Head Start Recompetition Process, EOPA was recently notified by the federal government it will have to compete for funding if it wants to continue to administer Head Start locally.

There is nothing unusual with this story until what happened next. EOPA board members decided to go into a closed-door session to discuss the previously released grant criteria. Many other local for-profit entities, including the Toledo Public Schools are expected to apply.

It turns out the EOPA executive board’s request for a closed-door session to discuss public matters is a violation of Ohio’s” Sunshine Law, meaning state law requires open public meetings. In addition, entering a closed executive session can only happen legally with a roll call vote. A reporter from The Blade who was present objected to EOPA’s closed meeting and filed a lawsuit for holding what was deemed an illegal executive session.

These types of actions are likely happening around the country. There are benefits to recompetition of existing Head Start agencies that could use a restart. The 132 Head Start grantees programs in question have identified deficiencies and because of that, may now lose funding. Yes, there is a threat to both jobs and students served in these programs. However, these concerns neglect a fundamental point. This is a “recompetition.” Current grantees are not simply being de-funded. They are recompeting for their grants against other potential providers who may come forward. The whole point is to identify the best available provider to continue delivering top services to children and communities–not to cut services.

If anything, many communities are concerned that not enough low-performing Head Start grantees will lose funding, because there is a lack of quality providers with the capacity to replace them.

Without the recompetition for grants of existing Head Start providers, there is no sustained effort to identify and build the capacity of high-performing providers to compete for Head Start grants, which carry an array of very complex requirements.

What are your thoughts –will recompetition of these 132 grantees create higher quality pre-school programs for Head Start?

 

The School Readiness Act of 2007 offered improvements to ensure that school readiness is a top priority for all the children they serve.  In general terms, the Office of Head Start has defined school readiness to mean:

  • Children are ready for school
  • Families are ready to support their children’s learning
  • Schools are ready for children

As programs work to contribute to children’s learning and development, Head Start leaders articulate the knowledge and skills needed for preschool children in social, emotional, cognitive/language and physical development. Clear identification of these factors demonstrates when a child is “school ready.”  By understanding the goals and skills needed, Head Start staff can plan and implement the most effective curriculum, assessments, and teacher-child interactions.

Head Start has long defined school readiness as children being prepared for success in school and for later learning in life. In addition, for parents and families, school readiness means they are engaged in the long-term, lifelong success of their child.

The Office of Head Start’s approach to school readiness involves three major frameworks. The frameworks promote an understanding of school readiness for parents and families. They also lay the foundation to implement systemic and integrated comprehensive child development services and family engagement efforts that lead to school readiness for young children and families. Visit the links below to learn more about these frameworks:

With Head Start’s “On the road to school readiness” approach, resources are available for local agencies to establish goals and metrics, implement and plan, determine priorities for improvement, and track progress. Look for more details here.

In addition, be sure to check out the school readiness FAQs to fully understand what it means for our children.

Is there a program or method you’ve implemented locally that should be included here?  If so, please share your comments below.

 

Imagine 27 million lives forever changed by Head Start.

Since 1965, more than 27 million Americans have participated in the Head Start program and benefited through “The Window of Opportunity,” offering success in school and life. With more children in need of services now, than at any time before, National Head Start Association (NHSA) has declared 2012 to be “The Year of Opportunity.”

A video released last October explores opportunities Head Start provides for children in poverty they might never get otherwise. Maria Shriver, narrator of the fanciful video “What is the Window of Opportunity?”  is a fitting choice. Her father, Sargent Shriver, first conceived the program in 1965 to help communities meet the needs of disadvantaged preschool children. As part of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty, he helped locate funds to implement the program and assembled a committee of experts.

There is no stronger testament to what Head Start can do than hear the story of how a hungry child carried through the doors of a center grew up to be a teacher, an artist, or a Member of Congress.  When listening to the many videos, stories and testimonials displayed on the National Head Start Association’s website, you can’t help but notice that not only have these alumni benefited from the program, but their family reaped the rewards as well.

Gathering alumni from centers across country, NHSA will invite 27 to Nashville, TN on April 18, to celebrate the 2012 Day of Opportunity. This sample of alumni will represent the 27 million success stories of Head Start since 1965.

Every Head Start and Early Head Start center has a critical role to play by identifying 27 Head Start success stories in its community – including alumni, parents, staff, and volunteers – anyone who has witnessed the transformative power of the program. Check out the program standings so far. NHSA will be accepting testimonials all year long and celebrate at other events. However, only those submitted before March 20, 2012, will be considered for the Day of Opportunity.

What can you do?

Currently, more than 5 million infants and children in need are unable to access Head Start. The best argument we can make to protect and expand this program comes from you. I urge you to lend your voice and your stories to this project. Together we are more than just numbers; we are the legacy of Head Start.

 


You may have noticed that many of my blogs are brought about from valuable discussions and comments in our Head Start/Early Head Start LinkedIn group.

Members of our group, comprised mostly of Head Start managers and officers, educators, youth advocates and others in the social services industry were asked, “What is a big concern you’re dealing with this week?” This informed group shared their insights and contributed some great comments. However, one specific comment caught my attention because her emphasis was on the important role parents play in early childhood cognitive development.

Introduced by Deborah McNelis, an early brain development specialist and owner of Brain Insights, was a concern with helping expectant parents of newborns understand the impact of the early years of a baby’s life. Even I was surprised to discover that “85% of a baby’s brain development happens before Kindergarten.” Her thoughts paralleled my own in that eligible parents need to get involved with an Early Head Start program (birth – 3 years) as soon as possible.

In an earlier post, Parental Involvement is key to children’s success, I talked about how research has shown the more that parents are involved in their children’s education, the better off their kids will be – emotionally and academically. However, what is not as well-known, is how critical a parent’s involvement is in a child’s early years and can determine if this later success happens. Early Head Start involves helping parents understand the importance of providing healthy foods for their child, introducing academics at the appropriate time, minimizing a child’s time in front of a screen, and best ways to cultivate the baby brain in our over-scheduled lives.

To learn more, I invite you to visit the Early Head Start Learning & Knowledge Center and find out how to get the most for you and your baby.

Some additional resources worth checking out:

I welcome your thoughts here, and ask that you join our LinkedIn group to help other Head Start parents, teachers and children benefit from your experience.

 

We are very excited about our new blog and hope to have productive and insightful dialogue about trends, issues, and available resources to enhance and strengthen Head Start agencies. You can also join conversations with the TGG Head Start Group on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/company/the-gravely-group. Please feel free to post any questions, comments, or suggestions regarding program governance, performance standards and effective meetings.

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