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How The Head Start Program Is Helping Young Children Grow

How The Head Start Program Is Helping Young Children Grow

Mon Dec 19 2016
By: Mike P

As of 2011, over one million children have been enrolled in the government-funded early childhood Head Start program. What began as part of President Lyndon B Johnson’s Great Society campaign that sought to eliminate poverty and racial injustice, the Head Start program “promotes the school readiness of young children from low-income families through agencies in their local community.” As further explained by the program’s official website, the Head Start and Early Head Start programs support the development of children up until the age of 5; in centers, child care partner locations, and in their own homes. Of the many responsibilities of the Head Start program, the program aims to provide early childhood education, health, nutrition, and parent involvement services to low-income children and families.

A large part of making this entire program come together relies on the help of countless Management Analysts that coordinate training and education programs for teachers and staff. In order to ensure that standards for the program are met, teachers and staff are required to take part in training sessions prior to starting with the Head Start program. The sessions are offered throughout the month, but vary in location due to the multiple districts the program covers. In addition to coordinating these training sessions, Head Start is also responsible for coordinating care services throughout the duration of a family’s involvement with the program. Social Workers will regularly make home visits to assess the specific needs of a child and their respected family. These visits, which are more commonly known as ‘case studies’, are arranged throughout the month in accordance with any parenting or counseling classes the Social Worker deems necessary. It’s the responsibility of the department’s Management Analyst to guarantee that training events and case studies are arranged accordingly, with a sufficient number of events available on a month-to-month basis.

You may expect that branches keep track of these events with the help of electronic files and project management software, but as it turns out, that’s much easier said than done. After speaking with a Management Analyst that’s been invested in the program for over a decade, we found out that new policy standards mandate reviews for both teachers and principals in the program must be done on a more refined basis.

The updated policy standards are designed to reflect best practices and latest research on early childhood development and brain science—which also brings along an increase in government funding. The only issue is that with standards heightened to increase the quality of the program, more hours are required for Management Analysts to accurately coordinate events across the multiple districts they serve. If the standards are not met in accordance with the new policies, the program can lose funding for the duration of the program year.

In order to maintain a high-level of organization and structure for the program, every Head Start division must have a reliable method for monitoring the success of all those involved. We’ve spoken to a handful of Management Analysts for the Head Start program over the past few years that have all told us a similar story regarding the complexity involved in planning and coordinating events and case studies. With some divisions managing upwards of thirty individual sites at once and over 3,000 children, the need for a centralized hub that can allow Administrators to see what’s happening at a glance is critical to the program’s success.

In an effort to tackle the issue head on, some Management Analysts have turned to Magnatag’s GiantMonth dry erase calendar to help provide their program with a scheduling tool to balance their constantly changing schedule. Rather than having multiple spreadsheets that need to be adjusted on the hour, the calendar systems enables Management Analysts to instantly update the program’s schedule, keeping members of the policy council and administration in-the-know.

“There’s a collection of certification classes, case studies, and training events going on throughout the district; it can get a little chaotic when you have to keep track of it in one location. That’s why—at least from my position—I find it much easier to keep a visual representation of the monthly program in my office. I know that since I’m the one responsible for scheduling the events, the most up-to-date calendar won’t be in a spreadsheet or scheduling program; it’ll be hanging in plain sight. It’s a good way to keep the rest of my team and myself accountable for the planning of our program.”

After speaking with Management Analysts nationwide, it’s become apparent that dealing with planning, scheduling and communication in the workplace is no simple task to manage. There are simply too many moving components to the Head Start program to expect any one person to manage efficiently—especially when dealing with numerous remote locations, staff members, and policy reforms. In order for a Management Analysts to perform their job to the best of their ability, it’s essential to have a system in place that readily allows for events to be communicated on a large-scale basis.

In 2015, the Head Start program took in a total of $8,598,095,000 in Federal funding. To put that amount of money into perspective, you could buy: A round trip to the moon, both the Chicago Cubs and the Toronto Maple Leafs, a private island, and a personal jet with billions of dollars left at your disposal. While this money can do a great deal of good in the right hands, it is nothing without a dedicated and prepared team to allocate the funds accordingly. With the help of Management Analysts across the globe providing comprehensive services to young children and their families, the Head Start program continues to direct and assist the development of low-income families across the nation.

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