Foundation for Staff Development

Explore the requirements for coordinated and effective delivery of learning opportunities and experiences for staff. Staff development focuses on gaining knowledge and skills related to job performance in early childhood education (ECE) programs. The Office of Head Start requires a minimum of 15 clock hours of professional development per year. Note: These resources are under review.

The resources below will be useful to program managers, human resources staff, governing bodies, consultants, training and technical assistance (T/TA) providers, state advisory committees, and program licensing agencies. The resources reflect evidence-based effective practices for ECE staff working directly with families. Use the materials to create a plan that integrates program quality improvement and the professional development needs of all staff.

About Staff Development

An assessment and analysis of program outcomes and staff needs assessments inform the nature and scope of staff development. It requires evaluating staff competencies and providing support, individually and in groups, to improve performance quality.

Staff development also is informed by reviewing state early learning standards and requirements, Head Start Program Performance Standards, licensing standards, program goals for high quality services, and planned changes that may result in a need for new knowledge, skills, and competencies. Activities are guided by credentialing, licensing, and program outcomes.

Clearly articulated position descriptions, competencies, job expectations, and performance evaluations and assessments are informed by national, state, local, and tribal standards and other goals programs must meet. These are critical to planning and implementing effective staff development.

The process for staff development is based on systematic identification of staff needs and planning to address gaps in knowledge or competence. This is foundational to improving services and designing effective staff development experiences. The process includes:

  • Identifying program areas where the quality of services, staff productivity, or efficiency need improvement
  • Using program and staff data to inform the content and design of training and intervention strategies that address specific knowledge and skill development targeted to improving performance
  • Providing ongoing opportunities for professional development. The Office of Head Start requires a minimum of 15 clock hours of professional development per year.
  • Providing appropriate follow-up support to implement new learning and staff evaluation results
  • Integration with individual career development

Head Start Requirements

To enhance program quality, the Head Start Act requires:

Staff Qualifications and Development – Section 648A [42 U.S.C. 9843a]

(a)(5) Teacher In-Service Requirement - Each Head Start teacher shall attend not less than 15 clock hours of professional development per year. Such professional development shall be high-quality, sustained, intensive, and classroom-focused in order to have a positive and lasting impact on classroom instruction and the teacher's performance in the classroom, and regularly evaluated by the program for effectiveness.

(f) Professional Development Plans – Each Head Start agency and program shall create, in consultation with an employee, a professional development plan for all full-time Head Start employees who provide direct services to children and shall ensure that such plans are regularly evaluated for their impact on teacher and staff effectiveness. The agency and the employee shall implement the plan to the extent feasible and practicable.

Definitions – Section 637 [42 U.S.C. 9843]

(21) Professional development means high quality activities that will improve the knowledge and skills of teachers and staff, as relevant to their roles and functions, in program administration and the provisions of services and instruction, as appropriate, in a manner that improves service delivery to enrolled children and families, including activities that –

  1. Are part of a sustained effort to improve overall program quality and outcomes for enrolled children and families;
  2. Are developed or selected with extensive participation of administration and teachers from HS programs;
  3. Are developmentally appropriate for the children being served;
  4. Include instruction in ways that HS teachers and staff may work more effectively with parents, as appropriate;
  5. Are designed to give HS teachers and staff the knowledge and skills to provide instruction and appropriate support services to children of diverse backgrounds, as appropriate;
  6. May include a 1-day or short-term workshop or conference, if the workshop or conferences is consistent in the professional development plan described in section 648A(f) [below] and will be delivered by an institution of higher education or other entity, with expertise in delivering training in early childhood development, training in family support, and other assistance designed to improve the delivery of HS services; and
  7. In the case of teachers, assist teachers with –
    1. the acquisition of the content knowledge and teaching strategies to provide effective instruction and other school readiness services regarding [the domains];
    2. meeting the requirements in paragraphs (1) and (2) of section 648A(a), as appropriate;
    3. improving classroom management skills, as appropriate;
    4. advancing the understanding of effective instructional strategies that are – (I) based on scientifically valid research; and (II) aligned with – (aa) the Head Start Child Outcomes Framework … and, as appropriate, State Early Learning standards; and (bb) curricula, ongoing assessment, and other instruction and services, designed to help meet the standards described in section 641A(a)(1);
    5. acquiring the knowledge and skills to provide instruction and appropriate language and support services to increase the English language skills of limited English proficient children, as appropriate; or methods of teaching children with disabilities, as appropriate.

Staff Skills and Competencies

These documents from the Office of Head Start (OHS) provide Head Start and Early Head Start staff with the context for effectively using the resources in this section.

These resources reflect evidence-based effective practices for staff working in ECE programs. They may be used as the basis for a creating a plan that integrates program quality improvement and the professional development needs of all staff.

Licensing Requirements and Credentialing Information

In addition to the Head Start regulations, there are also State licensing requirements and credentialing for other staff who work in ECE programs.

Staff Recruitment and Orientation

This tool allows users to determine wage and benefits for staff positions in Head Start and Early Head Start programs.

  • Wage and Fringe Benefits Comparability Toolbox

It includes position descriptions for these roles:

Supervisory Support

Support for program staff comprises many different approaches. Evidence-based practices focus on enhancing the skills and competencies of program staff and may include mentoring, mentor-coaching, and reflective supervision, among others. Resources in this section describe the nature and scope of supervisory support for program staff. For preschool teaching staff, improving teacher-child interactions focuses on using the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS®) to inform professional development experiences.

Last Reviewed: November 2016

Last Updated: November 21, 2016