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Capital Area Head Start Annual Accomplishments 2014–2015

Child laughing

Capital Area Head Start is a community-based early childhood program offering services to pregnant women, children ages 0-5, and their families. We have a vision of a world where all children are safe, healthy, and loved, with active opportunities for learning. By supporting families to gain the skills and confidence they need to achieve their goals, we are empowering them with a sense of hope for the future.

This has been a very successful year for Capital Area Head Start. We maintained an average 100% enrollment each month, serving a total of 1,090 children and families (574 children in Head Start, 176 in Head Start State Supplemental Assistance or HSSAP, 104 in Pre K Counts only, 140 in Early Head Start, and 40 in Maternal Infant Early Childhood Home Visitation or MIECHV). Ninety-six point five percent of the children in Head Start and Early Head Start meet 100% of the U.S. Poverty Guidelines. Of the children who were enrolled in CAHS, 93% of children in Head Start and 99% of children in Early Head Start received medical exams and 94% of children in Head Start and 100% of children in Early Head Start received dental exams, an important part of every child’s health and well-being. Ninety eight percent of Head Start and Early Head Start children are up to date with immunizations.

In the Secretary’s triennial federal monitoring review in 2014, no areas of noncompliance were found.  In addition, there were no findings or material weaknesses as a result of the last financial audit on June 30, 2015.

Parent Engagement

Woman holding child and giving her a kiss

We believe that parents are the first and foremost teachers of their children, and we encourage family participation in CAHS activities. We engage parents as partners to help their children progress. All of our centers and home-based locations facilitate parent meetings, including workshops on nutrition, transitioning to school, family night, budgeting, parenting, and other topics requested by parents.

Across the program, we held trainings and meetings for Connect with H.I.M. (Head Start Involves Men). Connect with H.I.M. encourages men to become involved in CAHS, supporting them in building positive, nurturing relationships with their children. Additionally, KISS (Keep It Simple Sisters) has continued to draw moms into special activities geared toward the interest of women in our program.

The “Parents as Staff Succeed” (PASS) initiative, established as a support venue for Head Start parents who transition into the role of staff, continued for a sixth year. As many as 24 different individuals attended the two sessions held during the year, both of which focused on personal wellness.  Participants expressed that they benefited from and appreciated these opportunities, and were motivated to continue the PASS initiative into a seventh year. Two sessions will be scheduled for the 2015-2016 program year, extending the focus on personal and career development.

PBIS – Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports

In the last five years, the number of reports of unsafe behaviors appeared to be noticeably increasing. A closer look at data related to unsafe behavior began in the fall of 2012. This increase was noted throughout the Head Start community. We began to speculate that in the face of dwindling community resources, there were many children and families facing more complex and challenging needs. We knew that we often serve the most vulnerable children and families, with many experiencing trauma, homelessness, foster care, family stress, and community violence. Therefore, during the 2013-2014 program year, the decision was made to move forward with the Positive Behavior Intervention and Support (PBIS) initiative at CAHS. This approach is designed to lend a more focused approach to reduce challenging behaviors and to equip staff with the skills needed to create an environment in which all children could succeed.

Our program motto “Take care of yourself. Take care of your friends. Take care of your home and school.”  is at the heart of PBIS implementation. Below are some accomplishments to date and the ongoing effects of the PBIS model:

  • At the August all-staff training event, staff from teachers to health assistants to coordinators were trained on the importance of relationships, received a refresher on Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies (PATHS), and developed a behavior matrix to look at the impact of the program motto across the parts of the class and work day.
  • A brochure detailing PBIS, as well as sticky notes and pens with the program motto were sent home to families to encourage their participation in the program-wide initiative.
  • As we incorporate the bucket filling concept program-wide, each family received a version of the Bucket Filling book. Families also received a paper bucket to practice bucket filling at home.
  • As a program, we have made a commitment to the bucket filling philosophy.
  • We created an explicit plan to teach the program-wide expectations with each of the first three weeks of school focusing on a piece of our program motto.
  • We have implemented a staff reinforcement system to recognize staff who are following and promoting our program-wide motto. When a staff member takes care of himself or herself, their friends, or their home and school, they receive a Buck-et. On the back, a statement is written to explain why the staff person is receiving the Buck-et. The Buck-ets can be cashed in for prizes from the PBIS store or a spot at an event, such as Zumba.
  • We have also introduced the Silver Bucket Award, which will be given to one person or teaching team who best exemplifies the PBIS motto. A nomination form has been created and staff can nominate colleagues who they feel go above and beyond to model PBIS. The Silver Bucket Award will be given out one time this program year but more frequently in years to come.
  • As part of a pilot program for CAHS, teaching staff from various centers, along with coordinators, support staff, and center directors who support those sites participated in Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education (CARE) training. Drawing on current findings in the field of neuroscience, CARE offers instruction in cognitive and emotional skills that help reduce stress by promoting understanding, recognition, and regulation of emotion.

Educational Outcomes

Teachers and home visitors in the Head Start and Early Head Start programs use an evidence-based, ongoing, individualized assessment process to ensure that all children are progressing toward school readiness and the children’s ongoing individualized goals. Children’s progress is formally rated three times each year. In 2014-2015, CAHS adopted Child Observation Record (COR), a research-based assessment aligned with our High Scope curriculum, which is used by CAHS in all center and home based settings. COR is designed to assess children ages 0-5 years, on a continuum of growth from infancy through preschool.

In 2014-2015, children were assessed using COR, according to 34 indicators across eight developmental domains, which include Approaches to Learning Social and Emotional Development, Physical Development and Health, Language, Literacy and Communication, Mathematics, Creative Arts, Science and Technology, and Social Studies. Based on extensive and ongoing anecdotal observations, teachers and home visitors assign a rating to each child’s progress in all indicators three times a year in October, February, and May. COR also allows for meaningful parent input, as parents share observations of children’s progress at home with the teaching staff. These observations are incorporated into the assessment to help provide a more complete picture of each child’s growth and development.

  • Educational outcomes in 2014-2015 for children ages 0-5 showed growth in all domains with the highest rates of growth shown in Physical Development and Health (including Gross Motor Skills, Fine Motor Skills, and Personal Care and Healthy Behavior), Creative Arts, and Science and Technology.
  • For both Head Start and Early Head Start, Building Relationships with Other Children was also an area of strength. Building Relationships with Adults was a strength for children in EHS.
  • Book Knowledge and Enjoyment was an area of strength for three and four year olds.
  • Social Emotional Development continues to be a focus for CAHS, with emphasis needed on skills such as recognizing and expressing emotions and conflict resolution.


Pennsylvania’s Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) approves a limited number of research-based assessments for use in state-funded programs. 2014-2015 was the first year that High Scope’s Child Observation Record applied for this approval and received it. PA has been working closely with High Scope to ensure that the data translates accurately to the state’s data system. We are awaiting further information regarding outcomes benchmarks from OCDEL.

View the Head Start 2014-2015 Child Outcomes: Executive Summary

School Readiness Goals

CAHS has program goals for school readiness, which include goals for children 0-5 and goals for parents and families in all areas of development. Our school readiness goals align with PA Early Learning Standards and the Head Start Child Development and Early Learning Framework.  They promote skills to prepare children for success in school and in life and were developed with input from parents and school districts. Our school readiness goals have been revised to reflect our new assessment, the HighScope Child Observation Record. 

View the School Readiness Goals (English, Español)

Kindergarten Preparation

Young girl painting on paper while seated at desk

An integral part of our school readiness goals is preparing children for kindergarten. This preparation begins long before the final year before kindergarten, as even infants and toddlers are supported in their learning to acquire the skills they need to grow and develop. As noted earlier, CAHS provides comprehensive services and activities to support children to grow educationally, emotionally, socially, and physically. Our classrooms use the HighScope curriculum, which is based on key developmental indicators that align with the Pennsylvania Early Learning Standards, to ensure a quality learning experience. These developmental indicators focus on:

  • Approaches to learning
  • Language, literacy and communication
  • Social and emotional development
  • Mathematics
  • Creative arts
  • Science and technology
  • Social studies
  • Physical health and development

The HighScope curriculum also includes indicators for English language learners as they begin to acquire English.

CAHS uses the PATHS (Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies) curriculum to assist children to learn important social and emotional skills for success in school and life. Children learn feelings identification, empathy, cooperative play, fair play skills, and problem solving.

To support and assist children and families to successfully transition to kindergarten, teachers carefully plan activities to introduce the school experience, including:

  • Visiting kindergarten classrooms
  • Meeting kindergarten staff
  • Viewing the Transitions from a Child’s Perspective video (available online)
  • Sharing photos and/or pen pal letters with kindergarten classrooms
  • Reading books about going to kindergarten
  • Creating “school” dramatic play opportunities

To prepare parents for their children going to kindergarten, we provide them with information about the transition process. We hold parent meeting discussions and provide parents with informational flyers on kindergarten registration and orientation, and remind parents of this information through handouts and newsletters. In addition, CAHS staff attend community group meetings and training that address communication, collaboration, and supporting families through the transition process. Staff work regularly to build and maintain relationships with the school staff in the districts where our children and families live.

Grants and Partnerships

We received several grants and formed new partnerships to benefit children and families.

  • For the third year, CAHS received a $5,000 grant from the PNC Foundation as an emergency fund for coats. We were able to purchase 160 children’s coats. Additionally, Graphtech and Reverend Waller-Washington held coat drives for us.
  • Capital Area Head Start has over 30 Community Partnership Agreements. One of our newest partners in the 2014-2015 school year is the Joshua Learning Center in Harrisburg.
  • We have a new community partnership with the Healthy Steps Diaper Bank, a small nonprofit organization that partners with agencies working with families in need. They have committed to supply diapers for up to 10 CAHS families who are struggling to provide diapers for their children. So far, six families have benefitted from the Diaper Bank services, receiving needed diapers at no cost.
  • The Foundation for Enhancing Communities has received a three-year Community Innovation Zone grant from OCDEL (Office of Child Development and Learning). CAHS and the Harrisburg School District will participate in this project. Representatives from OCDEL, PA State Government, grantees, Harrisburg School District, and CAHS, as well as others, attended the public announcement of the grant at Downey School. They also toured two preschool classrooms.

Other Notable Accomplishments

We celebrated many notable accomplishments both inside and outside the classroom.

  • The Capital Area Head Start CLASS program average for Fall 2013 exceeds the federal benchmark by 37% in emotional support, 47% in classroom organization, and 43% in instructional support. The CAHS also falls above the 2012 national Bottom 10% average by 15% (emotional support), 21% (classroom organization), and 41% (instructional support).
  • The federal audit went very well. No findings or issues were noted.
  • CAHS received a perfect score on the MIECHV (Maternal Infant Early Childhood Visitation) grant’s final Program Review Instrument.
  • Our training continues to focus on rolling out and implementing PBIS. The kickoff event for PBIS will occur at two staff pre-service events in August.
  • The CAHS Employee Development Coordinator was interviewed by NPR about our use of PATHS (Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies).
  • A team of three Pre-K Counts staff attended the Governor’s Institute, “P-3 Collaboration: Working Together for Student Success,” as part of the Harrisburg School District team. The week focused on P-3 alignment strategies, building collaborative partnerships, implementing standards effectively with young children (ELA, math, student interpersonal skills, and approaches to learning), and science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM). The team attending from CAHS included an education coordinator, a center director, and a teacher, along with the superintendent and two teachers from Harrisburg School District and a representative from Capital Beginnings.
  • Jo Pepper was invited to be part of the “Investing in Impact” working group. The working group will gather expert thinking from Head Start programs and association leaders in every region to discuss questions related to assessing Head Start’s outcomes in order to inform national conversations in preparation for Head Start Reauthorization. This group will be chaired by Gayle Kelly, Executive Director of the Minnesota Head Start Association, and C. Robin Britt, Executive Director of Guilford Child Development, and supported by Emmalie Dropkin at NHSA. Shelley Metzenbaum, President of the Volcker Alliance, gave a presentation and is interested in supporting the work.
  • Jo Pepper, Executive Director of CAHS, receive the 2015 Joseph M. Capita Spirit of the Capital Region Award from the United Way of the Capital Region.

Financial Information

We receive both public and private funds to continue our mission. Three quarters of our budget is spent on salaries and benefits, and the remaining funding is dedicated to service operations, including parent activities, classroom supplies and professional development.

Graph of public and private funds received 2014-2015

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Public and Private Funds Received 2014–2015

Public and Private Funds Received 2014-2015
Capital Area Intermediate Unit $212,890
Health and Human Services
Head Start $4,749,042
Early Head Start $1,383,113
Pennsylvania Department of Education
Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program $1,635,430
Pre K Counts $2,892,480
OCDEL Home visitation
MIECHV Formula $111,865
MIECHV Expansion $337,190
Total Received $11,322,010

Graph of Approved Budget for 2015-2016 Fiscal Year

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Approved Budget for 2015-2016 Fiscal Year

Approved Budget for 2015-2016 Fiscal Year
Capital Area Intermediate Unit $219,693
Health and Human Services
Head Start $4,845,599
Early Head Start $1,435,595
Pennsylvania Department of Education
Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program $1,635,430
Pre K Counts $3,128,000
OCDEL Home visitation
MIECHV Formula $111,865
MIECHV Expansion $337,190
Total Received $11,713,372


Balancing budgets through various funders remains an ongoing challenge. Although our waiting list numbers continue to increase, our funding does not. Sequestration cuts forced the elimination of several center-based and home-based slots and the closure of our center in Halifax, Dauphin County. In addition, the hoped-for funds from the State did not materialize, which further negatively impacted our services. Another ongoing challenge is the ability to find stable, high quality, and affordable classroom space in the areas of greatest need in Harrisburg and Steelton.

In addition, aggressive or violent behaviors occurring in the classroom have increased exponentially. To address these challenges, Capital Area Head Start, in coordination with Keystone Human Services, is actively participating in ongoing strategic planning to ensure that we continue to address the external and internal challenges, as well as maintain strong service performance and financial positions.

In response to the ever changing needs of children and families, Capital Area Head Start embraces the future, confident that it will continue to expand and positively impact the communities of central Pennsylvania.

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