OHS National Training and Technical Assistance System Questions and Answers

In 2015, the Office of Head Start (OHS), in collaboration with the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) Early Child Development and the Office of Child Care (OCC), implemented a redesigned Training and Technical Assistance (T/TA) System. The system will better support program staff in their delivery of high quality services to children and families. This document answers some of the questions that have been asked about the redesigned system, as it relates to the OHS Regional and state T/TA system.


What are the components of the T/TA System for Head Start?

The OHS T/TA System consists of three components: National Centers; a Regional T/TA Network; and direct T/TA funding to grantees. Structured, intentional, high-quality training and technical assistance is most likely to occur when the three components work together.

1. National Centers

The National Centers, many of which are jointly funded with OCC, function as a team that provides Head Start grantees with consistent information from OHS across all service areas. Each Center has an area of focus and is staffed by experts who have extensive experience with Head Start and with the development of effective interventions that make a difference in the lives of young children and their families. Tasks that are common to all centers include:

  • Communicating “best practices” and providing content-rich, practical resources and information that are effective in a varietyof real-world settings to grantees, early education partners, and T/TA specialists
  • Providing training at regional and national meetings and institutes
  • Supporting the development of the Regional T/TA specialists
  • Communicating with local programs through email, toll-free numbers, and other forms of technology

2. Regional T/TA Network

There are four categories of Regional T/TA specialists: early childhood (EC) specialists; grantee specialists (GSs); health specialists; and systems specialists. Most T/TA specialists, at the direction of the Regional Office, provide on-site training and technical assistance to grantees and are also available to provide training to clusters of grantees with similar interests or concerns or at state and regional events.

The work of EC specialists, both those who are infant/toddler specialists and those who are preschool specialists, falls into four large categories: school readiness; parent and family engagement; professional development for grantee staff; and collaboration at the state level. Every Head Start and Early Head Start grantee has access to an EC specialist.

GSs are deployed by the Regional Offices to work with specific grantees. The first priority for their work are grantees that have findings identified through federal monitoring reviews. However, they may also be assigned to work with grantees with concerns arising from Program Information Reports (PIRs), audit findings, or other data reviewed by OHS. As determined by the Regional Office, and time and resources permitting, GSs may also conduct training sessions or provide technical assistance for individual grantees or groups of grantees that do not have an identified concern but that wish to improve the quality of their program's systems.

Each region also has at least one health specialist. The health specialist serves as a link between the region and the National Center on Early Childhood Health and Wellness (NCECHW). In that capacity, the health specialist helps in disseminate evidence based materials and resources from NCECHW to Regional Office staff, T/TA specialists, and local grantees. As the direction of the Regional Office, the health specialist also provides training and technical assistance to individual grantees or groups of grantees.

The systems specialist works closely with other designated OCC T/TA staff, as well as with others such as the state collaboration directors. The primary responsibility of this specialist is to participate on a regional team to identify cross-system coordination opportunities between OHS and OCC. As time permits, they may be available to work directly with grantees or with groups of grantees.

3. Direct T/TA Funding to Grantees

Grantees are an essential component of the T/TA System because they get at least 50 percent of all Head Start T/TA dollars. Grantees use these funds in accordance with their training plans to support the needs identified by and specific to their local program. These activities include, but are not limited to, expanding staff qualifications; improving the skills teachers need in order to promote language and emergent literacy skills; improving management systems and learning environments; designing and implementing programs that help parents enhance the language and literacy skills of their own children at home; and other uses identified by and specific to each individual grantee. 

As grantees develop their own training plans, they are encouraged to take time to review what is available at no cost from the National Centers, from their Regional T/TA specialists, or from others in their state and local community. In that way, a grantee's own T/TA dollars can supplement rather than duplicate T/TA services that are already available.

National Centers

How do the National Centers communicate with grantees?

The National Centers use the Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center (ECLKC) to share materials and resources with both the Head Start community and the larger early childhood community. The National Centers have a presence via the ECLKC and provide access to materials, resources, guidance, and information specific to the work of that Center. The website also includes an email address for contact purposes.

National Center staff are available to present at some regional and national conferences or events. If you want to find out if staff from a National Center might be available to present at such meetings, you should contact the Regional Program Manager (RPM) for your region. The Regional Offices plan in advance for T/TA training and the RPM will need to review the request with the National Center staff to determine if it is possible to honor the request.

How do the National Centers communicate with the Regional T/TA specialists?

The National Centers communicate with the Regional T/TA specialists through monthly calls that provide a forum for the exchange of information and resources that shape T/TA support to programs. National Center staff also provides direct training for all Regional T/TA specialists. These training experiences include webinars and in-person trainings. In addition, there are other communication strategies in place that will promote, create, and maintain ongoing relationships between the National and Regional T/TA Network.

Regional T/TA specialists

Does every grantee have a grantee specialist (GS)?

No. A small number of GSs are assigned to each Regional Office. The Regional Office decides where the services of a GS can be most helpful.

Does every grantee have an early childhood (EC) specialist?

Yes. Every grantee has an EC specialist who serves as their point of contact with the Regional T/TA System.  However, if an EC specialist, in consultation with their Regional Office and a grantee, determines a colleague could better meet the needs of that grantee, arrangements are made for the colleague to work with the grantee.

In some regions, most EC assignments are based upon a match between the skills and knowledge of the EC specialists and the specific assistance requested by the grantee. In other regions, the EC specialist, who serves as the point of contact, provides most of the T/TA to their grantees.

I hear the term infant/toddler specialist. What is the difference between an infant/toddler specialist and an EC specialist?

All EC specialists are required to have experience with and a degree with coursework specific to children from birth to 3; children age 3 to 5; or children from birth to 5 years of age. EC specialists with experience and education specific to work with infants and toddlers are called infant/toddler specialists. Each region has a number of designated infant/toddler specialist. Of course, many EC specialists have coursework and experience inclusive of children from birth to 5 and so are well qualified to provide training and technical assistance to infants and toddlers.

Is there someone I can get in touch with at a Regional Office if I have questions about T/TA in a region?

Yes. Each Regional Office has a federal staff person who is called a Contracting Officer's Representative (COR). CORs, in partnership with their RPMs and others in their Regional Office, are responsible for the strategic planning and oversight of training and technical assistance in their region. They also monitor the travel and activities of T/TA specialists; approve reports resulting from that work; answer technical questions; and monitor the contractor's budget, etc.

The CORs for each region are as follows:

Last Reviewed: April 2016

Last Updated: April 19, 2016