Since 1965, the federal Head Start program has provided low-income 3- and 4-year-old children and their families with comprehensive early education and support services. Head Start programs focus on the “whole child” and include early education that addresses cognitive, developmental, and socio-emotional needs; medical and dental screenings and referrals; nutritional services; parental involvement activities and referrals to social service providers for the entire family; and mental health services.1 In 1994, policymakers authorized the Early Head Start program to address the needs of children under age 3 and pregnant women.
All Head Start programs are required to complete the Program Information Report (PIR) on an annual basis. Based on information reported through the PIR, this fact sheet describes the characteristics of Head Start children and families (including children in Early Head Start, the Head Start preschool program, and Migrant and Seasonal Head Start) and the services provided to them during 2006. Key findings include:
Head Start Staff in 2006
In 2006, Head Start employed nearly 57,000 teachers. Among lead classroom teachers, 21 percent had a C.D.A., 34 percent had an A.A., 33 percent had a B.A., and 5 percent had a graduate degree. In total, 72 percent of teachers had an A.A. or higher. Among teachers with an A.A., nearly one-quarter (23 percent) were in a B.A. program. Among teachers with a C.D.A., 44 percent were enrolled in a degree program.
Among Early Head Start teachers, 34 percent had a C.D.A., 28 percent had an A.A., and 23 percent had a B.A. or higher. Among Early Head Start home visitors, 14 percent had a C.D.A., 20 percent had an A.A., and 45 percent had a B.A. or higher.
The average salary for a lead teacher in 2006 was $24,737. Among teachers with a B.A., the average salary was $27,598. For teachers with an A.A., the average salary was $23,194.
In 2006, 15 percent of teachers left the program at some point during the year. Of these, 30 percent reported leaving for higher compensation or benefits in the field.
In 2006, Head Start child development staff (including teachers, assistant teachers, home visitors, and family child care providers) were 48 percent white, 29 percent Black or African American, 4 percent American Indian or Alaska Native, 2 percent Asian, and 1 percent Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander. Three percent were bi- or multi-racial, and 12 percent did not specify a race. Twenty-seven percent of child development staff were Hispanic, which includes individuals of any race. Twenty-nine percent of child development staff were proficient in a language other than English.
Source: Head Start Program Information Report (PIR), 2007.
Implications for Professional Development
Research Notes published by the McCormick Tribune Center for Early Childhood Leadership, National-Louis University discusses implications of 2006 PIR data for professional development. “Although educational and professional development needs vary according to local circumstances, some needs are cross-cutting: the need to improve the educational levels of current and prospective teachers, the need to provide training to EHS teachers, and the need to provide training and resources for HS teachers working in family child care settings. These needs can be addressed through increased access to educational offerings specifically designed for HS staff, such as college coursework delivered at or near a local HS site, or through innovations in online educational technology.
As in past years, HS programs continued to serve a diverse group of children and families. Despite HS’s role in serving low-income children and their families, resource constraints have prevented many programs from reaching more children and providing higher quality through increased teacher qualifications and compensation. In 2006, as in previous years, teacher educational levels improved while salaries remained stagnant. An increased investment in enhancing teacher qualifications and pay should figure as an essential element of delivering high-quality comprehensive early childhood services.”
Source: The McCormick Tribune Center for Early Childhood Leadership, National University. Research Notes
. Winter 2007