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Centers of Excellence

The Centers of Excellence Program was established as part of the Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act of 2007. Funding was first appropriated for fiscal year (FY) 2006. Applicants were each nominated by the governor of his or her state. To qualify for the nomination, the Head Start and Early Head Start programs had to serve as exemplary models for other programs by implementing comprehensive, innovative, and targeted approaches to enhance program services.

The 10 Centers of Excellence, funded by the Office of Head Start, identified, developed, and refined their approaches to promoting positive outcomes for children, families, and communities. Each Center selected an approach to foster these positive outcomes and meet their identified grant outcomes.

While the Centers of Excellence drew on various creative strategies to implement their goals, all used evidence-based practices embedded in their programs. The purpose of these various strategies was to improve the quality of Head Start services. Some of the activities included:

  • Developing coaching models to improve the delivery of instruction and culturally relevant mental health services to children and their families
  • Holding training labs for teachers and teacher mentor/coaches to expand the skills of the teaching staff and aides
  • Using family service worker credentialing to improve delivery of services to children and families

All of these activities were designed to help give each child a better sense of readiness for kindergarten and beyond.

The Centers have used different approaches to promote children's emotional, social, and academic competence. These practices prevent and reduce inappropriate and disruptive behaviors in classrooms and contribute to better learning environments.

As they worked to improve the quality of early childhood care and education, the focus of the Centers evolved. They established partnerships and collaborations with many other local and community groups to better serve the children and families. Staff are required to be knowledgeable and responsive to a range of child and family needs. This may include effective interactions with young children, parents, and families, or even trying to create stable and healthful living situations. A great range of partners can offer this additional support.

Explore the professional development resources below from two of these Centers of Excellence, Private Industry Council (PIC) of Westmoreland/Fayette, Inc., of Fayette County, PA, and Audubon Area Community Services, Inc., in Owensboro, KY.

Private Industry Council (PIC) of Westmoreland/Fayette, Inc. Fayette County, PA

PIC of Westmoreland/Fayette, Inc., was established to ensure that local children were better prepared to begin their school adventure. As a Center of Excellence, PIC chose the "Incredible Years" as the model they would use as a prevention program to reduce children’s aggression and increase social competence. This method provides direction and support for childhood education professionals and parents. It offers best practices related to the social and emotional development of children ages birth to 8.

The materials and guides in this section are designed for use by teachers and child care staff. The guides incorporate discussions on social and emotional behaviors and skills. The materials include emotion and feeling photos that can help children identify and express their emotional responses in everyday situations. Classroom rules support strategies that focus on personal responsibility and frame positive aspects of classroom social and emotional interactions.

Emotion Cards

Rule Cards

Audubon Area Community Services, Inc. Owensboro, KY


Audubon Area Community Services, Inc., used a systems approach to design an outcomes-based job description and performance appraisal process. This system provides the process to make foundational changes for positive program improvement through collaborative processes. Using Audubon’s process, a program can learn to create and nurture a culture of outcomes-based thinking within a Human Resources system that addresses competencies and skills in recruiting, interviewing, hiring, and evaluating staff positions. Delivering high-quality services begins with hiring staff with the skills that match the program’s expectations.

The workshop resources begin with the identification and articulation of job competencies for developing a position description. Beginning with the identification of job competencies, the process guides participants through each of the next steps. The entire system unfolds in the Audubon Area Head Start Outcome-Based Job Description and Performance Appraisal System PowerPoint slide presentation. Gain an understanding of the entire process using the comprehensive Presenter’s notes. Samples of blank and completed forms can be personalized for each program’s Human Resources needs.

Topic:Professional Development

Resource Type: Article

Last Updated: June 13, 2018