Human Resources

Examples of Core Competencies for Head Start Managers

Program directors can use this resource to further their understanding of how to establish a competency-based framework within their employee appraisal system. Examples of core competency areas are provided for Head Start managers.

Establishing a Competency-Based Framework

Establishing a competency-based framework provides an opportunity for program directors to articulate professional knowledge, skills, and attributes essential for all staff. Competencies can be generic and may be applied to specific contexts as defined by each job classification and position description. The definitions provided are examples only and can be used by program directors in establishing competencies for managers and teaching staff. This framework can be applied to staff at all levels.


Competencies have been defined in a variety of ways but most models include the elements of knowledge, abilities, skills, personal characteristics, behaviors and/or qualities that are linked to organizational objectives and are key to producing results. For the purposes of establishing a competency-based framework, a competency profile for each position should be defined as:

The knowledge, skills, abilities and behaviors that an employee applies in performing his/her work and that are the key employee-related levers for achieving results that are relevant to the organization's business strategies.

Not all supervisors or managers or front line staff will have job responsibilities related to all of the core competencies. Depending on the structure of the organization in which they work, each staff may have job responsibilities that are focused on a smaller subset of these competency areas. However, an individual pursuing a career in management in a specific content area might benefit from training and experience in all of these areas.

The following competencies are related to managers who are responsible for Family & Community Partnerships and Early Childhood Development & Health Services:

Family & Community Partnerships1

  • Best Practices in the Field of Family Support: Familiarity with the continuum of family support services and best practices in the field, including frequency and intensity of service delivery, caseload guidelines, and supervision needs of family support workers
  • Program Planning, Monitoring & Evaluation: Key assessment and evaluation tools in the field of parenting education and family support; use of databases (and management information systems, where relevant) to track program participation and record outcome measurements.
  • Marketing and Outreach: Tools and techniques for reaching out to underserved groups in the population; efficient use of available funds to reach the largest possible audience; strategies for partnering with other agencies and community groups to reach more families.
  • Personnel: Ongoing reflective supervision and professional development of staff members; conflict resolution and strong listening and communicating skills; group facilitation; plan for crisis support to staff.
  • Managing Resources: Understanding and assessing community resources.
  • Community Advocacy and Collaboration: Recognition of need for consultation and collaboration with families and with social service, mental health, law enforcement, and domestic violence intervention agencies; advocacy related to community issues that affect families' well-being.
  • Community Partnerships and Involvement: Using partnerships to develop services in response to unmet needs and reduce unnecessary duplication of services.
  • Technology: Uses technology to effectively manage data and information.

Early Childhood Development & Health Services2

  • Child Growth & Development: Uses knowledge of the principles of child growth and development to understand how children acquire language, creative expression and develop physically, cognitively, and socially.
  • Child Observation and Assessment: Observe and assess what children know and can do in order to provide curriculum that meets their developmental and learning needs.
  • Learning Environment and Curriculum: Establish an environment that provides learning experiences that meet each child's capabilities, and interests.
  • Families & Communities: Work collaboratively with families and agencies/organizations to meet children's needs and to encourage the community's involvement with early care and education.
  • Health, Safety and Nutrition: Establish and maintain an environment that ensures children's healthy development, safety and nourishment.
  • Interactions with Children: Establish supportive relationships with children and guide them as individuals and as a part of a group
  • Program Planning and Development: Uses thorough analysis and thoughtful planning to achieve child outcomes
  • Professional Development and Leadership: Serve children and families in a professional manner and participate in the community as a representative of early childhood care and education.
  • Technology: Uses technology to effectively manage data and information.

Using the Core Competencies in Supervision

The core competencies provide a framework for thinking about your staff's knowledge, skills, and abilities, as well as their needs for additional training. As a supervisor, you may wish to encourage or require managers in your program to maintain a professional development plan as part of your employee appraisal system. Some concrete ways you can use the core competencies include:

  • Refer to the plan and the core competencies when you talk with individual staff members about their professional development and training needs
  • Use the core competencies to describe the desired skills for a vacant position, or to compare the qualifications of job applicants
  • Plan training opportunities for your staff based on gaps in the core competencies, or ask an advanced worker in a core competency area to lead an informal discussion about issues within that area
  • Set training goals for new hires or annual training goals for all staff based on the core competencies

1 O'Conner, Cailin. (n.d.) Core Competencies in the Field of Family Support. Wisconsin Children's Trust Fund. [back]

2 Professional Development Initiative for Early Care and Education in Kansas, Kansas Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (2000). Core Competencies for Early Care and Education Professionals in Kansas and Missouri: What Professionals who Work with Young Children and Families Need to Know and are Able to do to Provide Quality Early Care and Education. Salina, KS. [back]