|April 16, 2002||Contact:||ACF Press Office
In April 2002, President Bush announced an Early Childhood Initiative to improve early education for children that included new steps to further strengthen the Head Start program.
The Head Start program began in 1965 and is administered by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) in HHS. Head Start and Early Head Start, which was launched in 1995, are national programs providing comprehensive child development services principally to eligible low-income children from birth to the age of mandatory school attendance and their families, as well as to pregnant women under the Early Head Start program. Program grantees provide comprehensive health, nutritional, educational, social and other services to help enrolled children achieve their full potential and succeed in school. They also provide parents with training and education to foster their understanding of and involvement in the development of their children.
To ensure a quality program, Head Start grantees must comply with Federal Performance Standards. In Head Start's 1998 reauthorization, additional emphasis was placed on enhancing the quality of Head Start programs, promoting the professional development of Head Start teachers and stressing the importance of including reading and math readiness skills in Head Start curricula.
Research shows that Head Start programs deliver high quality services to children and families and that classroom quality is consistently rated as good. Head Start children show growth in vocabulary, math and social skills during their Head Start year. Head Start parents are more involved with their children. For example, two-thirds of parents read to their children at least three times per week, three-fourths attend parent-teacher conferences, and most volunteer in their child's classroom. Head Start helps parents improve their parenting skills, increase participation in their children's school activities, and in many cases, helps parents on the road to self-sufficiency. In addition, Head Start continues to provide high-quality health services - providing medical and dental exams helping ensure access to and treatment, assuring children are up to date in their immunizations, teaching children proper nutritional practices and providing wholesome meals and snacks.
Head Start awards grants to more than 1,500 local public or private agencies. Generally, a community must contribute 20 percent of the total costs of its Head Start program. Nearly 1.5 million local volunteers, including high school and college students, parents and senior citizens, offer critical help to local Head Start programs. Head Start will serve an estimated 915,000 children in fiscal year 2002. Of these, approximately 225,000 children receive full-day, full-year services, and the remainder attend part-day preschool programs that usually follow a school-year schedule.
HEAD START INITIATIVES IN 2002
Early Childhood Initiative. In April 2002, President Bush announced this initiative to improve the state of early childhood education, in which too many children come to school unprepared to learn. The initiative includes steps to improve Head Start, including directing HHS to implement a new accountability system to ensure that every Head Start center assesses standards of learning in early literacy, language and numeracy skills. In addition, HHS will implement a national training project with the goal of training all of the nearly 50,000 Head Start teachers this year in the best pre-reading and language teaching techniques for young children.
Early Literacy Initiative. HHS is providing Head Start programs with assistance on ways in which they can better prepare children to be ready for school. Particular emphasis is placed on both child and family literacy so that Head Start children can better develop the skills they need to become lifelong readers, and parents can better develop the skills they need to both improve their own lives and to help their children become reading proficient. Head Start is investing considerable resources in early literacy, including, targeting training and technical assistance resources to assure that every Head Start classroom is delivering training that promotes reading, vocabulary and language skills.
Early Head Start. The Early Head Start program, launched in 1995, expands the benefits of early childhood development to low-income families with children under age 3 and to pregnant women. In fiscal year 2002, Early Head Start will serve about 62,000 infants and toddlers with a budget of $654 million. More than 660 grantees participate in the Early Head Start program. In January 2001, a preliminary evaluation of Early Head Start showed that children in the new child development program performed significantly better in cognitive, language and social-emotional development compared to children not participating in the program. The evaluation will continue to follow family and child outcomes for three years, with final results expected in 2002.
Fatherhood Initiative. In fiscal year 2002, ACF will continue to award grants to 21 Early Head Start projects in 17 states to continue developing new approaches to sustaining fathers' involvement in their children's lives. These grants, which will total $7.5 million over three years, are designed to provide strategies that other Early Head Start projects can use to involve fathers in their family-centered, community-based programs. The goal is to enhance the physical, social, emotional and intellectual development of infants and toddlers.
Improving Quality. HHS has offered technical assistance, partnership and support to Head Start programs as they pursue excellence and has terminated the grants of those programs that were not delivering high quality services. Since 1993, some 150 grantees have been terminated or have relinquished their Head Start grants. In addition, HHS has invested in quality improvements to help Head Start programs across the country make sure facilities are healthy and safe for children, improve teacher education and hire more teachers to reduce class size and eliminate double-session classes.
Research. The Family and Children Experiences Survey (FACES) is designed to find out how well Head Start programs are performing and find ways in which program performance can be improved. FACES assesses a national sample of children before and after their Head Start experience to see what changes the program has made in their lives. In the next few years, a detailed body of knowledge will be developed to enable all Head Start programs to have the ability to deliver high quality responsive services which ensure children enter school ready and eager to learn and that there will be positive long lasting effects on the lives of the children and families served by Head Start.
The National Head Start Impact Study, which began in fiscal year 2001, was designed to provide a national analysis of the impact of Head Start on the development and school-readiness of low-income children. Based on both the requirements of the Head Start Act and the recommendations of an advisory panel of national experts, this longitudinal study utilizes a rigorous experimental design involving the random assignment of children to Head Start and non-Head Start groups. A small pilot study currently is underway and data collection for the main study will begin in the fall of 2002.
More information on the Head Start program, including program statistics and evaluation reports, is available at http://www2.acf.dhhs.gov/programs/hsb/index.htm.
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Last revised: April 16, 2002