Head Start Management Systems
Since 1964 the Head Start program has been working to level the playing field in early education. The program, which the Johnson administration implemented as a part of the “War on Poverty,” began as an eight-week demonstration project. In a break from the norms of the day, Head Start provided early education to children from low-income families and attempted to meet all the child’s needs with the inclusion of family engagement. As such, the program had provisions for emotional, social, health, and nutritional services. With these services, its creators hoped to break the cycle of generational poverty. This is where Head Start Management Systems comes into play.
This comprehensive approach to child education, centered on family support, was groundbreaking, leading to the replication of its methodology in many programs throughout the United States and abroad. Today, Head Start has skyrocketed from its humble beginnings and become a mainstay in communities throughout the country. It remains one of the longest-running poverty-prevention programs in the United States. The two Head Start programs, Head Start and Early Head Start, provide services to children from birth to kindergarten, along with their families.
The Head Start Management Systems Wheel
The Head Start program strives to build and maintain a true collaboration with the children, families, and communities it serves. As such, the program employs various systems designed to ensure cooperation between families and educators through relationship building, cultural competence, and continuous improvement based on data collection.
The Head Start Management Systems represent the twelve management, planning, and oversight systems its creators designed as a way to build and maintain program infrastructure and the high-quality delivery of Head Start Services. These systems are as follows:
- Program Planning and Service System Design
- Data and Evaluation (link to “Head Start Data” article, when available)
- Fiscal Management
- Community and Self-Assessment
- Facilities and Learning Environment
- Technology and Information Systems
- Training and Professional Development
- Record-Keeping and Reporting
- Ongoing Monitoring and Continuous Improvement
- Human Resources
The Head Start program uses a wheel to represent the twelve systems. The space between spokes representing one system each. The systems are surrounded and supported by Leadership and Governance. The systems, in turn, support the inner ring of the wheel, which consists of five program components:
- Eligibility, Recruitment, Selection, Enrollment, and Attendance (ERSEA)
- Mental Health
- Family and Community Engagement
The wheel’s hub represents Quality Child and Family Outcomes, which are, of course, supported by all the other parts of the wheel.
An apt representation of Head Start Management Systems, each section of the wheel is a moving part in itself. Let’s take a more in-depth look at each one, starting with the hub.
Quality Child and Family Outcomes: Preparing Children for Ongoing Learning Success
The hub of the wheel is, appropriately, Quality Child and Family Outcomes. Why is it an appropriate hub? Because all the activity around it creates and supports these positive outcomes, on which the program centers its focus.
The goal of Head Start is to prepare children for continued learning. More specific outcomes as defined by the program include:
- Progression towards norms in language, literacy, and math.
- Improved social, emotional, and cognitive development.
- Achievement of school readiness.
- Improved health markers.
The Head Start Program Components: Providing Services to Children and Families
Moving to the inner ring of the wheel, let’s look at the five components. As mentioned above, Head Start’s well-rounded approach to education includes providing supportive services and a commitment to community and family engagement. Each service may offer a different type of support for children and families. Together, they form a comprehensive approach to preparing children for future success. The chart below gives more detailed information on each:
As you can see, the Head Start program has extensively researched each component to provide guidelines on project implementation. In addition, the program offers a wealth of information on each subject, including links to studies, learning modules, and planning resources.
The Twelve Head Start Management Systems
As we continue outward on the Head Start Management Systems Wheel, we find the twelve management, planning, and oversight systems embedded between the spokes. These twelve systems, if implemented properly, support the above components through information gathering, staff education, program planning, and resource management. In the chart below, we can look more closely at how these systems impact programming and support positive outcomes for young learners:
The twelve services do not only support the five components needed for quality outcomes. These services are interrelated, and each one holds up the others in one way or another. For instance, record-keeping supports data collection, while data collection supports program planning. It is essential for programs to understand these concepts and ensure each one receives attention. Of course, Head Start programs need a good leadership team to ensure all the systems are in place and running smoothly.
Leadership and Governance: Keeping the Pieces Together
The outermost ring of the wheel, holding everything else together, is leadership and government. Leadership and governance bear the responsibility for ensuring that all twelve services happen, all five components have direction, and that the program achieves the desired outcomes. Leadership and governance in the Head Start system consists of three key entities:
- Governing Body/Tribal Council
- Policy Council/Policy Committee
- Management Staff
Governing Body/Tribal Council
This leadership structure bears the responsibility for program structure, service oversight, and making decisions about program design and implementation. They also have a legal and fiscal responsibility for the local Head Start organization. The following are rules and regulations to keep in mind when establishing a governing body:
- At least one member should have an accounting or fiscal management background.
- At least one member must have expertise and experience in early childhood education.
- At least one member must be a licensed attorney who has familiarity with the issues that might affect the program.
- Other members should reflect the community and include parents who have (or have had) a child in the Head Start program.
- Members must be selected based on expertise in education, business administration, or community affairs.
- Members should not have a conflict of interest with the Head Start Program.
- Some exceptions to the above rules exist.
Policy Council and Policy Committee
The Policy Council is responsible for program design and operation, long and short-term planning, and deciding the direction of the Head Start program. These decisions need to take community needs, assessment (including self-assessment), and annual community-wide strategic planning into account. Current parents of Head Start students elect the committee members:
- The committee consists of current and former parents of children who are or were in the Head Start program.
- Committee members must also be members of the community which the Head Start program serves.
- Committee members should not have a conflict of interest.
The policy committee is responsible for approving and submitting decisions as related to a delegate agency. Requirements for the Policy Committee members are the same as for the Policy Council.
Supporting Head Start Programs Through Technical Advancement
As you can see, Head Start programs have a lot to manage and keep track of as they provide services to the community. Fortunately, the golden age of technology and software programs means information is only a click (or swipe) away.
Head Start programs have unique needs that are unlike other programs. With that in mind, program leaders will want to choose a software program specifically tailored to the program’s requirements. As such, Learning Genie is an obvious choice for Head Start programs.
Learning Genie created a module just for Head Start programs and recently provided updates to meet the community’s changing needs during the Covid crisis. Featured updates include:
- Digital Daily Health Screening forms, which parents can fill out.
- Contactless check-in and check-out.
- Real-time data tracking with a dashboard for easy decision-making.
- Virtual learning events.
- A digital portfolio tool for distance learning.
- An app that can be used on a tablet or phone, allowing for family engagement, even on the go.
- Two-way messaging for parental engagement.
- Language translation with the capability to translate 104 different languages (includes text-to-speech).
- Digital flyers and reminders for classroom events.
- Virtual books that teachers can read in class and share with families for reading at home.
- Easy-to-track in-kind reports.
In addition to the above Head-Start-specific features, Learning Genie comes with:
- Enhanced privacy features.
- Data monitoring and reporting.
- Fast documentation and batch documentation for the classroom.
- Quick status reviews with flexible filters.
- In-app assessment rating.
- Offline and draft modes.
- Interactive parenting tips.
- Multimedia content to share.
- Easy sharing of pictures and videos with parents.
- Remote management.
- Quick portfolio printing.
In short, the Learning Genie app eases parental communication and engagement, saves educators time, and makes data easily accessible, all to the benefit of the little learners in your care.
Head Start Management Systems: Supporting the Communities They Serve
As a publicly sponsored initiative, Head Start programs must, by law, meet minimum performance standards that assure program quality. These standards reflect updated information on educational practices in early education and childhood development. They are essential to the future success of the children who attend the program, and will hopefully, one day, become part of a larger plan to alleviate generational poverty in the United States.
Because Head Start programs are community-managed, there is a need for specific guidelines and instructions to help program managers effectively meet these goals and provide the best opportunities to the families they serve. Therefore, a comprehensive system is the best way to guide program leaders, staff, and families. Head Start provides it in spades. Not only that, but Head Start has a system in place for every aspect of program implementation, as well as resources for continuing education for families, educators, nurses, and every other member of the organization.
The organizational structure of the Head Start program is what allows it to respond to familial and community needs. And by serving those most in need, the program has an essential place in the future of our society. By giving children from low-income families the opportunity for early childhood education, the Head Start program has the potential to change the futures of the children and families for which it exists.