Head Start Funds More Hours of Service for Programs Across the Country


The Department of Health and Human Services is awarding approximately $290 million to 665 Head Start and Early Head Start programs to expand the number of children-attended programs that offer full school day and full school year services.

Congress allocated these funds as a down payment toward ensuring that nearly all preschool-age children in Head Start attend programs that operate for a   full day and full school year.  This investment complements new Head Start standards announced earlier this year, which require nearly all Head Start programs to offer full school day and full school year services by 2021. While these funds will ensure that communities have some full day and year slots, sustained and increased investment is needed to ensure that all Head Start children have access to a full school day and year of services.

“Strong and mounting evidence from research tells us when children attend high quality programs for more days and longer hours, they are better prepared for school and have improved outcomes,” said Linda Smith, HHS deputy assistant secretary for early childhood development.  “We are pleased Congress has appropriated these funds for young children served by the Head Start program.”

Research shows programs that run for fewer hours and fewer days may not have enough time to provide frequent intentional teaching in small groups and individualized instruction, or to provide necessary comprehensive services. Long summer breaks can also undermine the gains that children make during the program year.

This supplemental funding allows Head Start programs to choose the models that work best for their communities when designing programs with more total annual hours.  Programs work with parents in deciding to add days at the end of the year, to shorten the summer gap, to add more hours per day or a combination of both.

“Increasing the duration of Head Start programs is the right direction to help children, and it’s also more responsive to the needs of working families” said Mark Greenberg, HHS acting assistant secretary for children and families. “The funding provided by Congress will help to take an important step forward in strengthening the Head Start program.”

The $290 million in ongoing operational funding will become part of the grantee’s base funding subject to appropriations.

To learn more about Head Start, please visit http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ohs/.

Source: Early Childhood Development, Administration for Children and Families, US Department of Health and Human Services

Together from the Start: Expanding Early Childhood Investments for Middle-Class and Low-Income Families


We are making significant progress in early childhood education but still have a long way to go. Over the past decade, new research in neuroscience on the benefits of high-quality early learning experiences has been met with increased state and federal investments in early childhood policies. Funding for state pre-K programs has doubled in the past ten years, and the federal government has also made new investments through the Preschool Development Grants and the Race to the Top–Early Learning Challenge. President Obama has also announced ambitious proposals for expanding early education and child care in his 2013, 2014, and 2015 State of the Union addresses—although the these plans have yet to find substantial political traction in Congress.1 And as we approach the 2016 presidential election, early childhood policy is poised to be a central issue of debate.

But this increase in public spending—and the benefits that accrue from it—is not distributed among all American families. While there’s growing political consensus that investing in high-quality early care and learning for low-income children is worthwhile, there is less agreement about the extent to which middle-class families should be included in public early childhood programs. High-quality early childhood programs are expensive because they invest in their workforce through wages, benefits, and training; include low adult-to-student ratios; and implement research-based curricula. President Obama’s Preschool for All initiative would cost $66 billion over ten years to expand states’ pre-K coverage to families earning up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level.2 Those who oppose expanding programs beyond low-income families argue that we do not have enough evidence that pre-K and child care benefit middle-class families to warrant an expensive investment.3

Source: The Century Foundation

Available at: http://apps.tcf.org/together-from-the-start

U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services Release Early Learning Challenge Annual Performance Reports for 20 States 


The U.S. Department of Education released a report today that shows Race to the Top—Early Learning Challenge states are rapidly improving the quality of early learning programs while enrolling more children, especially from low- and moderate income families, in the highest-quality programs.

What’s more, thousands more children are receiving health screenings to help detect medical or developmental issues earlier, the report shows. The report comes from the annual performance reviews for the 20 states that have received more than $1 billion in Early Learning Challenge grants since 2011. These reports capture the successes achieved and obstacles overcome by states in the last year.

“By investing in high-quality early learning through programs like the Early Learning Challenge, states are giving many more children a strong start in life,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. “Thanks to the leadership of governors, state officials and education advocates, these states are implementing plans to develop high-quality early learning systems that improve the quality of learning and provide our youngest citizens with the strong foundation they need for success in school and beyond.”

The Early Learning Challenge is a historic federal investment that supports states in building strong systems of early learning and development to ensure that underserved children – including low-income and minority students, as well as students with disabilities and English learners – and their families have equitable access to high-quality programs.

Highlights from the reports:

  • More than 72,000 early learning and development programs are now evaluated under their states’ Tiered Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (TQRIS) – an 87 percent increase since the states applied for their grants.
  • Nearly 14,000 programs are in the highest quality tiers of their states’ rating system – a 63 percent increase since the states applied for their grants.
  • Significantly more children with high needs are enrolled in programs in the highest quality tiers of their states’ rating system.
  • More than 200,000 children with high needs are enrolled in highest rated state-funded preschool programs.
  • Nearly 230,000 children with high needs are enrolled in child care programs that receive federal child care subsidy funds and are in the highest tiers.
  • More than 150,000 children with high needs are enrolled in Head Start/Early Head Start programs in the highest tiers.

“The Early Learning Challenge, an education reform initiative announced by President Obama in 2009, has been a catalyst for advancing state-led efforts to improve education. When we invest in early education, the benefits can last a lifetime,” HHS Administration for Children and Families Acting Assistant Secretary Mark Greenberg said. “Children who attend high-quality early learning and preschool programs are more likely to do well in school. We all gain when our country has strong early childhood systems in place to support our children on the path to opportunity.”

Duncan discussed the report at the annual grantee meeting in Virginia for the thirty-two states implementing the Early Learning Challenge, as well as Preschool Development Grants. Launched in 2011 as a historic joint initiative of the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services, the Early Learning Challenge now has 20 states participating: California, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington state and Wisconsin. These grantees are working to align, coordinate and improve the quality of existing early learning programs across multiple funding streams that support children from birth through age 5.

Duncan also spoke about the Preschool Development Grants, a program jointly administered by both Departments. In 2014, 35 states and Puerto Rico applied for the Preschool Development Grants, jointly administered by the Departments, to expand high-quality preschool for children from low- to moderate-income families. Due to the limited funding, awards were made only to 18 states in over 200 high-need communities that span the geographic and political spectrum. Despite the evidence showing the importance of early learning and the unmet need for preschool in America, earlier this summer, House and Senate committees authored partisan spending bills that make significant cuts to programs that provide important services such as health care, public health and safety, job training, and education. Both bills eliminate Preschool Development Grants, jeopardizing critical early education opportunities for more than 100,000 children in the last two years of the grants.

This Early Learning Challenge report provides a high level overview of the progress made by Early Learning Challenge states in key areas as they implement their state plans. For more detailed information, see the individual state annu

Source: U.S. Department of Education

Available at: http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/us-departments-education-and-health-and-human-services-release-guidance-including-children-disabilities-high-quality-early-childhood-programs-0

Using Data to Measure Performance of Home Visiting


Across the country, state legislatures are turning to evidence-based policymaking to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent efficiently and effectively. One example is family support and coaching. In response to research confirming that the early years of childhood affect learning, behavior, and health for a lifetime, many states have invested in these programs, commonly referred to as “home visiting.” Evidence shows that families that participate in home visiting programs, which focus on strengthening vulnerable families with children under age 5, are often more self-sufficient and better able to handle the challenge of parenting and to raise healthier, safer children.

However, for many reasons, including differences in family needs, culture, and the availability of supportive community services, past evidence of effectiveness alone does not necessarily lead to positive outcomes. Evidence must play an essential role throughout the life of the program, from legislation and planning to design and implementation. Ongoing performance monitoring is vital to understanding whether desired family and child outcomes are being realized. Several states have passed legislation to make home visiting programs more effective and accountable by requiring the agencies that oversee them to set goals and measure results.

Source: The PEW Charitable Trusts

Available at: http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/reports/2015/10/using-data-to-measure-performance-of-home-visiting

Preschool Development Grants Program


The Preschool Development Grants competition supports States to (1) build or enhance a preschool program infrastructure that would enable the delivery of high-quality preschool services to children, and (2) expand high-quality preschool programs in targeted communities that would serve as models for expanding preschool to all 4-year-olds from low- and moderate-income families. These grants would lay the groundwork to ensure that more States are ready to participate in the Preschool for All formula grant initiative proposed by the Administration.

Source: US Department of Education

Available at: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/preschooldevelopmentgrants/index.html?src=rotator

Benchmarks for Quality Improvement: Measuring Progress in State and Territory Program Quality Improvement Efforts 


The Benchmarks for Quality Improvement (BQI) were developed to assist States and Territories in assessing and measuring progress in program quality improvement systems and to assess their current status in improving their early education and school-age care quality. OCC established benchmarks that are easy to understand, measurable, and that will help States and Territories better plan for use of the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF).The benchmarks consist of five elements, each of which includes a progression of indicators that detail the expectations for progress toward or achievement of program quality. This document provides information about OCC’s vision, mission, areas of expectations for States and Territories, scope of indicators, and core elements.

Source: Child Care Technical Assistance Network

Available at: https://childcareta.acf.hhs.gov/resource/benchmarks-quality-improvement-measuring-progress-state-and-territory-program-quality

A Matter of Equity: Preschool in America


All parents hope their child will start school ready for success. Unfortunately, not every parent can find the high-quality early learning opportunity that sets their child up for success.

Earlier today the U.S. Department of Education released a new report outlining the unmet need for high-quality early learning programs in America. Roughly 6 in 10 four-year-olds are not enrolled in publicly funded preschool programs, and even fewer are enrolled in the highest quality programs.

Source: U.S. Department of Education

Available at: http://blog.ed.gov/2015/04/a-matter-of-equity-preschool-in-america/

Parents’ and Providers’ Views of Important Aspects of Child Care Quality 


Understanding the match – or mismatch – of parents’ and providers’ perceptions of quality can inform efforts to improve quality, to strengthen family-provider relationships, and to assist parents in selecting child care that fits their child’s and family’s needs. As part of a larger project examining factors that shape parental decision-making, 92 QRIS providers in two states (46 in Maryland and 46 in Minnesota) and 19 parents of young children (ages zero to six) in Minnesota who recently applied for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program were asked their views on what is important to the overall quality of a child care arrangement.

Source: Child Trends

Available at: http://www.childtrends.org/?publications=parents-and-providers-views-of-important-aspects-of-child-care-quality

Early Essentials: A Six-Part Orientation Series 

Welcome to Early Essentials! The Early Head Start National Resource Center is pleased to present this six-webisode orientation series. These webisodes offer key messages and helpful resources to get staff started with services to the youngest children and their families. They include interviews with experts and strategies and tips from veteran staff. Quick Start Guides provide links to more information.

Webisode Topics and Air Dates

Explore upcoming topics and mark your calendars!

Early Essentials will air the first Wednesday of each month beginning Sept. 3, 2014.

  • Components of Quality: Sept. 3, 2014
  • Building Relationships: Oct. 1, 2014
  • Expectant Families: Nov. 5, 2014
  • The First Three Years: Dec. 3, 2014
  • School Readiness for Infants and Toddlers: Jan. 7, 2015
  • Self-Care and Professionalism: Feb. 4, 2015

Watch this short video to learn more about Early Essentials: http://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/hslc/tta-system/ehsnrc/comp/program-design/early-essentials.html  

Stay Connected with #EarlyEssentials

During and after the webisodes, we encourage you to share your thoughts and comments on Twitter! Use #EarlyEssentials to participate in the chat.

Who Should Watch?

Use these materials on your own or in orientations and trainings with staff. They are great for new staff and those looking for a refresher. This series will benefit an array of audience members, including: direct service staff who are new to work with expectant families and infants, toddlers, and their families; staff who want a refresher on important messages in their work; and managers designing orientations or staff trainings.


You may send your questions to ehsnrcinfo@zerotothree.org or call toll-free 1-877-434-7672. Sign up to receive information and resources about Early Head Start.

Source: Early Head Start National Resource Center and the Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center

Available at: https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/hslc/tta-system/ehsnrc/comp/program-design/early-essentials.html

Early Care and Education Quality Improvement: A Typology of Intervention Approaches


This brief is designed to support Quality Improvement QI efforts by describing the status of the evidence and presenting information that categorizes quality improvement efforts using a typology of QI models and targets. The brief provides: an overview of the current QI context; the methodology for this review; a conceptual framework to categorize QI efforts; a summary of trends in the evidence base on the effectiveness of different types of QI; and a discussion of potential QI efforts that, guided by research and practice, could augment or replace existing approaches.

Source: Office of Planning, Research & Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families

Available at: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/opre/resource/early-care-and-education-quality-improvement-a-typology-of-intervention-approaches