Following up on my blog post from a month ago, I’m pleased to share our final comments submitted to the Office of Head Start. We applaud the work of the Office of Head Start (OHS) in proposing new program performance standards stemming from a review of the current, applicable research on early childhood education and child and family development, and we appreciated the opportunity to submit comments.
For me, this is a dream assignment: review the proposed new Head Start Performance Standards! I love diving into regulations and analyzing how they may be interpreted and applied in real-world settings, and, equally, I love advocating for young children and their families, teachers, and caregivers.
As part of the recent federal Early Head Start–Child Care Partnership grant initiative, Early Learning Ventures (ELV) was awarded an annual grant of $3.1 million to serve 240 children and families in Arapahoe, Garfield, Mesa, and Pueblo counties in Colorado. ELV will combine the comprehensive nature of Early Head Start services with our shared services model, which uses networks of independent child care centers and family child care providers to promote business efficiencies and quality among small providers in each community. Approximately 30–40 licensed child care centers and family child care homes (approximately 60–70 classrooms) will participate in this innovative model to increase program quality as well as school readiness for all children and families. With the idea that school readiness is a shared responsibility and that quality improvement is much broader than what occurs in the classroom or by any one individual, the ELV Partnership model affords an equitable distribution of resources for participating child care providers. The ELV Partnership model supports programs in five areas that are key to program quality:
Last week at the National Head Start (NHSA) Annual Conference in Washington, DC, we were honored to recognize the winners of the 2015 NHSA-Teachstone Scholarship Awards. These NHSA members embody the spirit of our work at Teachstone, where we recognize the parallel process centered on supporting teachers in their most critical role in the classroom: educating and nurturing the youngest members of the next generation.
I remember when the word “CLASS” struck fear within Head Start teaching staff. When the Office of Head Start announced that CLASS scores would be used as one measure of program quality during program monitoring reviews, it left many teachers anxious and concerned. Imagine being a teacher in a small rural program knowing that your CLASS scores alone could result in the loss of critical services for children, a valuable resource for the community, and jobs.
“Of course!” That was the reaction of many in the field of early childhood when the Head Start Reauthorization of 2007 (Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act) highlighted a critical component of high quality early childhood education by requiring the federal Office of Head Start (OHS) to include a reliable and valid way of observing and measuring teacher-child interactions in its program monitoring. Early childhood educators know, first-hand, how the individual, minute interactions between a teacher and child can serve as the foundation for strong relationships that have the power to change the lives of children at-risk of a host of lifelong challenges caused by poverty.
The rapid pace of human development in the first three years of life requires teachers and caregivers to be nimble. Whether a family member or teacher, you must be on your toes to effectively support a baby’s development, constantly gauging the child’s needs and changing your approach to meet those needs. With all this change occurring, how do we ensure that consistent, high quality care is provided during this critical time period, in which brain development profoundly impacts success later in life? Thankfully, we now have a plethora of brain science to understand the implications of the quality of experiences, like this excellent report from the Institute for Child Success.
I have sat down to write a Happy New Year blog post from Teachstone on numerous occasions during the past three weeks, but it seems that every time I begin to write I am pulled away for another exciting conversation with a research partner, a higher education partner, a community partner, or a state partner. If the last three weeks are any indication of what 2015 will bring for the birth to five community, it is going to be one exciting and productive year. It will also be a wild ride! So I am going to take a deep breath as I relax on my fourth flight in 36 hours and share a bit of what I have been thinking about but unable to put down on paper (well actually on my laptop) for the past 20 days.