All across the country, Head Start, school, and community organizations are working to address the fundamental fragmentation that characterizes our mixed-delivery early childhood systems. In my work leading First 10 school-community partnerships, I’ve witnessed the vital role that Head Start and Early Head Start programs play in supporting the whole child and promoting family well-being. Head Start leaders are part of innovative First 10 initiatives across the country that are successfully reinventing school-community partnerships focused on young children and their families. Now more than ever, Head Start agencies have an opportunity to extend their influence, drive change, and improve outcomes for all children and families in their communities.
“Head Start, the country’s biggest preschool program, is getting better.”
More than a decade after Congress imposed new standards on Head Start, a third of its partners have been forced to compete for funding that was once virtually automatic, and the share of classrooms ranked good or excellent has risen more than fourfold. With a $10 billion budget and nearly 900,000 low-income students, Head Start is a behemoth force in early education, in an age when brain science puts ever more emphasis on early learning.
‘The quality of Head Start has definitely improved,’ said Margaret Burchinal, a psychologist at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and a Head Start authority. ‘That’s a big jump because there are so many classrooms involved. To make that much improvement across the whole country is pretty amazing.'”
In a word, quality. “Tennessee doesn’t have a coherent vision,” Dale Farran, a Vanderbilt professor and the Tennessee study’s co-author, told me. “Left to their own devices, each teacher is inventing pre-K on her own.”