October 10, 2012

Head Start Leads the Way to Innovation

For the past 50 years, Head Start has been leading the way in research, innovation, and understanding of early learning. At a panel presentation at the National Head Start Association's Leadership Institute in Washington, D.C., Head Start panelists presented four innovative projects from Washington, Virginia, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania. Capital Area Head Start Director Jo Pepper represented Pennsylvania, discussing the work done with the Harrisburg Preschool Program in the Harrisburg School District and the results of Penn State's research about school success of students who attended the program. Penn State researchers found that students who attended the Harrisburg Preschool Program scored higher on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) literacy and math tests than their peers who did not attend preschool program.

Debbie Reuvenny, Keystone Human Service's Early Intervention Director, joined Jo on the panel, and together they discussed the ongoing budget, programming, and political issues. The successes of the preschool program continue today under CAHS leadership, so children in the Harrisburg area continue to gain the educational foundation to set them up for future success.

A Young Mother Finds Success

Capital Area Head Start provides preschool and home-based programs for children, but they also encourage parents to participate in their children's lives and to find success in their own lives. The mother of a child in one of our programs has recently enjoyed a lot of success in her life.

This young mother began in our Marshall Early Head Start child care program as a teen mom and transferred to the Early Head Start home based program this fall. She is a high school senior and helps out in the after school program as her senior project. She manages her time so that she has time to focus on increasing her GPA while working a part-time job.

Her family is very close, and they always support each other. When her mother is not home, she takes care of her brothers, including helping them with their homework. While she is in school, her son attends day care. She is very attentive to his needs, and he is very attached to his mom!

This young mother has set goals for herself, too. She would like to get her driving permit, and once she graduates from high school, she plans to attend Harrisburg Area Community College.

A Lasting Impression

Our employee development coordinator visited SciTech High School in Harrisburg to give a presentation on Head Start Community Partnership Days for a group of students in grades nine through twelve. All twenty-two of the students were bound for college. Afterwards, one student approached our instructional coach and introduced himself as a former Head Start student. He said that Head Start had made a huge difference for him, and he wanted to volunteer. Our goal is to give children a head start in life so they can be successful in school, their families and the community, and we're always happy to hear from our former students as they reach for success!

An Indication of High Performance

Every year, Capital Area Head Start must complete a report to ensure that our program continues to provide a high quality program for children and their families. This year, we are proud to report that we have had success in many areas of the children's and their families' development. By the end of the enrollment year, 99% of children enrolled had health insurance, 99% of children had a medical home, 95% of children were up-to-date with all possible immunizations and 95% of children had a dental home. One hundred percent of families received the family services they needed.

Within our Early Head Start program, 99% of children had health insurance by the end of the enrollment year, 98% had a medial home and 96% were up-to-date with all possible immunizations.

One hundred percent of our preschool classrooms include at least one teacher that meets the degree and credential requirements that became effective October 2011. In addition, our teachers are working hard to ensure that they meet the new requirements that will be going into effect in September 2013.

Preschool Leads to Children’s Success

Parents often enroll their children in pre-school in the hopes that they will perform better once they enter kindergarten and elementary school. We now have evidence that children who attended the Harrisburg Preschool Program (HPP) score higher on Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) literacy and math tests than peers who have not participated in HPP.

HPP is a collaborative program between the Harrisburg School District and Capital Area Head Start, which provides comprehensive, high-quality preschool services to children in the Harrisburg area.

A recent evaluation by the Prevention Research Center at Penn State found that in the fourth grade PSSA tests, 42% of HPP students were advanced or proficient on the PSSA math achievement tests while only 24% of non-attendees were advanced or proficient. Similarly, 32% of HPP students were advanced or proficient in the reading achievement while only 24% of non-attendees were advanced or proficient.

This evaluation shows that enrollment in HPP has significant effects on children’s learning over a long period of time. Dr. Mark Greenberg, the principal investigator of the evaluation and the director of the Prevention Research Center for the Promotion of Human Development at Penn State, said, “The HPP program has the important elements of high-quality preschool. This includes well-trained and well-equipped teachers; a vital and challenging curriculum in literacy, math and social emotional development; and a caring, supportive classroom environment that nurtures the learning of young children.”

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