Program Profile:
Salvation Army Early Head Start in Omaha

Using Existing Tools
To Support School
Readiness

Pam Card, Child Development Coordinator of Omaha’s Salvation Army Early Head Start, insists that she’s neither a statistician nor a researcher. But she’s excited about using numbers in her work—the kind of numbers that can support individualized learning and school readiness for very young children.

With encouragement from Program Director Sharlene Mengel, Card designed a plan to set and measure progress toward school readiness goals that works for both the children receiving home-based services and those enrolled in center-based care. The tools Card needed were close at hand: the Parents As Teachers (PAT) Milestones for Ages Birth to 36 Months for ongoing assessment; and the ChildPlus system to manage the data.

The Omaha program had used PAT Milestones since its inception to track the individual development of children receiving home-based services with weekly home visits. Parents enjoyed using the milestones because, as Mengel explains, “They know right where their kids are.” Since children in center-based care at two community partner sites also receive home visits twice a month, Card saw an opportunity to expand use of the milestones tool to their home visits as well. This way, all of the 111 children in the Salvation Army program (87 home-based and 24 center-based) would participate in the data collection.

Card and Mengel determined that PAT Milestones also aligned well with the five essential domains of the HSCDELF as well as state early learning guidelines and local school district expectations. And Card was already using “all the tabs” in ChildPlus to process enrollment, demographic, attendance, and health data.

“We weren’t creating work for ourselves,” says Mengel. Adds Card, “It was really very easy.”

Card and Mengel based the goals for the school readiness plan on the HSCDELF domains, expressing developmental progress for children in the large 0-3 age range. Then Card identified five age groups within 0-3 and selected two easily and observable milestones for each. Mengel describes the plan as “the closest we could get” to capture milestone data for children who are developing so quickly.” Parents were enthusiastic. “When I asked parents what they thought their children needed to know to get ready for school, they came up with the same things I did,” Card recalls.

The following table shows the goals and selected milestones for the aggregation:

Goal Measurement
From PAT Milestones Assessment

1) Children demonstrate improved physical health and development

0-4 months

  • Holds head steady when held at adult’s shoulder
  • Turns from stomach to back or back to stomach

5-8 months

  • Sits without support or help
  • Transfers objects from one hand to the other

9-14 months

  • Cruises
  • Stacks two or three blocks

15-23 months

  • Scribbles spontaneously
  • Kicks a large ball forward

24-36 months

  • Jumps with both feet off the floor
  • Builds a tower of six cubes

2) Children demonstrate improved social behavior, emotion regulation, and emotional well-being

 

0-4 months

  • Makes brief eye contact
  • Laughs

5-8 months

  • Enjoys simple games such as “peek-a-boo”
  • Shows concern when parent leaves the room

9-14 months

  • Feeds self with fingers
  • Shows satisfaction with own accomplishments;

smiles

15-23 months

  • Feeds or cares for doll or stuffed animal
  • Makes choices

24-36 months

  • Takes turns in activities with guidance
  • Washes and dries own hands

3) Children demonstrate improved communication, language, and emergent literacy skills

 

 

 

 

0-4 months

  • Takes turns making sounds with parent (reciprocal vocalization)
  • Makes raspberries or similar sounds

5-8 months

  • Squeals, shrieks, or makes other loud noises
  • Babbles using repeated syllables such as ma ma, ba ba

9-14 months

  • Responds to own name when called
  • Points, gestures, or makes sounds to indicate wants and needs

15- 23 months

  • Names three pictures
  • Points to six body parts

24- 36 months

  • Tells name
  • Names eight pictures

4) Children demonstrate improved general cognitive skills

0-4 months

  • Tracks an object or person moving slowly at close range
  • Brings objects to mouth to explore

5-8 months

  • Experiments with the effects of throwing, dropping, shaking. and banging objects
  • Reaches into a container to get objects

9-14 months

  • Experiments purposefully with objects to discover the effects of his action (light switch)
  • Places round shape into shape sorter

15-23 months

  • Places round, square, and triangle piece into sorter
  • Knows three animal sounds

24-36 months

  • Matches identical pictures or objects
  • Names on color

5) Children demonstrate improved positive approaches toward learning, including improved attention skills

0-4 months

  • Focuses on high contrast objects
  • Turns head to locate a sound

5- 8 months

  • Tries to explore everything with mouth
  • Demonstrates intense curiosity through constant exploration

9-14 months

  • Examines small objects and details
  • Observes and imitates actions of people

15- 23 months

  • Plays by self for short period of time
  • Uses trial and error to solve problems

24-36 months

  • Sorts toys by one characteristic
  • Initiates own play

Card feeds the data into ChildPlus, which produces reports showing which share of children in each age group has not started a milestone, started a milestone, or mastered a milestone (defined by the assessment tool as doing it three times). Previously, Card examined the ongoing assessment data by individual child. Now she aggregates the information by age group, family consultant (home visitor) caseload, and teacher caseload.

Card and Mengel conducted two data aggregation practice runs in April and July of 2012 and will send their first official report of this work to their regional office in October. They will eventually conduct four aggregations a year (the Head Start Program Performance Standards require a minimum of three). In the meantime, they are beginning to use their findings to inform their planning for the socializations they hold twice a month with children and families.

Before implementing the school readiness plan, adds Pam, “we knew some kids weren’t completing milestones at certain ages. Now we have it on paper— hardcore data that helps us select strategies and activities that would support this." Mengel says the new aggregations are helping them build on the program’s continuing work to identify patterns of progress among groups of children, assist parents in establishing individualized child development goals, and inform professional development.

And Card is even envisioning a time when she can compare the progress of children in the Salvation Army’s Early Head Start with other children in the community. “I’d love to be able to pick out 100 kids in Omaha and make comparisons with the general public,” she says. She is thinking like a researcher.

This profile is based on interviews conducted in August 2012.

Last Reviewed: June 2014

Last Updated: August 28, 2014