The Tennessee Head Start State Collaboration Office (TNHSSCO) is located in the Tennessee Department of Education, Division of Special Populations. The Tennessee Department of Education seeks to make Tennessee the fastest-improving state in the nation through a commitment to continuous improvement. To do this, all students must improve every year, and those furthest behind must improve at a faster rate.
The Department of Education is dedicated to changing the trajectory of the education system through First to the Top statewide reforms, funded by more than $501 million from the federal government's Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge in 2010. Their strategic plan is focused on growth at every level of the system: the state, districts, schools, classrooms, and students themselves. First to the Top lays forth a compelling vision, goals, and plan for the future of education in Tennessee. There is a renewed focus on developing and improving great teachers and leaders in classrooms, and a commitment to student performance across schools, levels, and demographics. The state is also adopting the Common Core State Standards, ensuring that curricula in Tennessee align their education plans with necessary knowledge for college and careers.
The purpose of the TNHSSCO is to create significant, statewide partnerships between Head Start and the state in order to meet the increasingly complex, intertwined, and difficult challenges of improving services for low-income children and their families.
Major partnerships include:
- Department of Education
- State pre-K programs
- Special Education services for children with disabilities
- Home visiting programs
- Department of Health
- Children's Services foster care program
- Dolly Parton Books from Birth Foundation
- Center for Social Emotional Foundation for Early Learning (CSEFEL)
The State Advisory Council with which TNHSSCO identifies is called the Early Childhood Advisory Council (ECAC). The director of the TNHSSCO is a member of the ECAC.
The major goals of TNHSSCO include:
- Facilitating the involvement of Head Start in state policies and plans which affect the Head Start population and other low-income families.
- Facilitating collaboration between Head Start programs and a wide range of state-level activities which, in turn, will support local community coordination.
- Highlighting mutual federal and state commitments to children and families.
In addition to the contributions listed above, TNHSSCO has accomplished the following:
- Introduced CSEFEL professional training statewide.
- Increased oral health management markedly for Head Start children.
- Increased professional development with early childhood degrees for Head Start teaching staff through TN Early Childhood Training Alliance (TECTA), which is administered through TN State University.
- Implemented statewide uniform hearing screening for all Head Start and Early Head Start children by staff trained with timely otoacoustic Audex instruments. Results are shared with Early Childhood hearing Outreach (ECHO) project in the National Center.