Education Requirements for Coaches

Coaches in Head Start and Early Head Start work to improve teaching practices as well as strengthen the program’s overall professional development efforts. Coaches possess unique knowledge, skills, and competencies. Use this staff qualification brief to support recruiting and hiring efforts, by matching requirements to potential applicants.

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Two coaches working togetherStaff Qualifications: Steps for Programs to Consider

Use this brief to better understand the Head Start regulations and considerations for coaches.

Local programs determine how their staff meet the Head Start regulations.

Follow these steps to help guide you in the process of determining and justifying how your coaches meet the Head Start Program Performance Standards (HSPPS).

  1. Read the HSPPS:
    • Know the specific education requirements for staff and consultant roles detailed in 45 CFR §1302.91
    • Review the cross references to the staff and consultant qualification requirements in other relevant HSPPS
  2. Gather data to know your program’s needs and expectations, based on:
    • Community, family, and child needs
    • Program goals including school readiness goals
    • Areas where education staff need support and would benefit from intensive coaching
    • Your existing continuous quality improvement system
  3. Use all available information to ensure your program has:
    • Human resources and professional development policies and procedures to help you meet regulations
    • Clear program goals including school readiness goals
    • Qualified staff and consultants who can effectively support your program’s goals and service delivery
    • An ongoing monitoring process that identifies and addresses challenges in hiring and retaining qualified staff and consultants

What Are the Requirements?*

*For full text, access the HSPPS.


45 CFR §1302.91(f) “A program must ensure coaches** providing the [intensive coaching] services described in 1302.92(c) have a minimum of a baccalaureate degree in early childhood education or a related field.”

**Coaches providing the less intensive coaching as a form of professional development are not required to meet the educational requirements within 45 CFR §1302.91(f).

Two female coachesCompetencies

45 CFR §1302.91(a) “A program must:

  • Ensure all staff, consultants, and contractors…have sufficient knowledge, training and experience, and competencies to:
    • fulfill the roles and responsibilities of their positions…
    • ensure high-quality service delivery…
  • Provide ongoing training and professional development to support staff in fulfilling their roles and responsibilities.

45 CFR §1302.92(b)(5) “Programs must establish and implement a systemic approach to staff training and professional development…the system must include research-based approaches to professional development for education staff, that are focused on:

  • effective curricula implementation,
  • knowledge of the content in Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework: Ages Birth to Five,
  • partnering with families,
  • supporting children with disabilities and their families,
  • providing effective and nurturing adult-child interactions, supporting dual language learners as appropriate,
  • addressing challenging behaviors,
  • preparing children and families for transitions; and,
  • use of data to individualize learning experiences to improve outcomes for children.”

45 CFR §1302.92(c)(2) and (3) “A program must implement a research-based, coordinated coaching strategy for education staff that at minimum, provides opportunity for:

  • intensive coaching to…education staff identified…[as benefiting most from intensive coaching] including opportunities to be observed and receive feedback and modeling of effective teaching practices directly related to program performance goals;
  • education staff not identified for intensive coaching…to receive other forms of research-based professional development aligned with program performance goals…”

45 CFR §1302.92(c)(4) “A program must implement a research-based, coordinated coaching strategy…that…ensures intensive coaching opportunities for [education] staff…that;

  • align with the program’s school readiness goals, curricula, and other approaches to professional development;
  • utilize a coach with adequate training and experience in adult learning and in using assessment date to drive coaching strategies aligned with program performance goals;
  • provide ongoing communication between the coach, program director, education director, and any other relevant staff; and,
  • include clearly articulated goals informed by the program’s goals…and process for achieving those goals."

Please Note!

Grantees have the flexibility to implement higher or more stringent requirements than those outlined in the regulations. To meet the Head Start requirements related to intensive coaching, a coach could have a bachelor’s or advanced degree in one of the following:

  • Early childhood education (ECE)
  • A related field

What Else Do I Need to Know?

Considerations for Hiring Staff

  • Ensure that coaches who are part of your program’s intensive coaching strategy have sufficient knowledge, training, experience, and competency to be able to effectively:
    • Use child and program assessment data;
    • Align coaching strategies with your program performance goals;
    • Apply adult learning principles;
    • Observe education staff, provide feedback and model effective practices
    • Communicate well
  • Review*** training and course content to determine if it includes ECE content. To the extent possible, get the course descriptions from awarding institutions. ECE or child development related courses may be offered in various departments—such as education, home economics, family and consumer science, human ecology, music, art, library science, physical education and recreation, psychology, family studies, and others.
  • Consider local needs to help you determine what a “related field” means for your coaches.
  • Access the T/TA system for support and connect with your regional office program specialist as necessary.
  • Consider requirements detailed within the state/territory early care and education system (includes licensing requirements, requirements included within the Quality Rating and Improvement System, etc.)

***In reviewing coursework taken by applicants, be sure to look beyond just the title or name of the department that issued the credits, as they are sometimes deceiving.

Considerations for Professional Development

  • Use the annual professional development hour requirement to ensure coaches effectively support education staff’s effective teaching and home visiting practices. This can include ongoing training and taking college courses.
  • Consider your program option(s) and the needs of staff to help you determine the specific knowledge, training, experience, and competencies for your coaches (e.g., infant and toddler development, teaching preschoolers, or home visiting).
  • Use individualized professional development plans and ongoing supervision to ensure coaches can effectively support education staff in areas of need or interest such as implementing curriculum and learning experiences with very young children or ensuring effective adult-child interactions.

Where Can I Find More on This Topic?

Last Updated: February 27, 2019