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.

 

Families are faced with many challenges today: The decline of the economy, unemployment, inflation, and the high divorce rate are probably among the most serious. Families with children in the Head Start program face even more challenges. They are typically low-income, and many are single-parent families. The program has also seen an increase in the number of immigrant families with children.

According to Child Trends Data Bank, children living in areas with a high concentration of child poverty are more likely to participate in a Head Start program than children who live in more affluent areas.

What are the top 3 Head Start issues for families?

One of the recent discussions in my LinkedIn group revolved around the issues that families with children in Head Start face. One of the group members posed the question, “What are the top three issues for families whose children are served by the Head Start program? There were a variety of responses to the question (in no particular order):

  • Poverty
  • Unemployment
  • Spiritual home
  • Finances
  • Children’s future
  • Time
  • Fear
  • Empowerment (of parents & children)
  • Provisions (how to acquire & maintain)
  • Education
  • Language barriers

Someone brought up the point that the issues might be community-specific — that is, lack of transportation; maybe inadequate housing, or substance abuse.

I suggested that the top three might be poverty, fear, and unemployment. But after thinking about this it occurred to me that  Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs comes into play here. If the basic needs — water, food, sleep, etc. — aren’t met, it really doesn’t matter what the other issues are.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

For example if a child’s basic nutritional needs aren’t being met, fear or language barriers aren’t important issues. If the family is homeless and the security needs aren’t being met, the children’s future, for the moment, is not as important.

So in reality, the biggest issues facing families with children in the Head Start program vary by family, depending on where they fall in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Every family is different, and it’s up to Head Start managers and staff to identify where that family falls in the hierarchy.

I would like to hear your opinion. What do you think? What other critical issues do families with children in the Head Start program face? Is Maslow’s Hierarchy important in identifying family issues? Post your comments below.

 

 

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