What 54 Means

For Head Start grantees, 54 is more than just another birthday

The number 54 can mean many things. In units of measurement, things can weigh 54 pounds, be 54 inches long, or last 54 days. A 17-foot Delta Expedition kayak weighs 54 pounds. Twice around the circumference of a bowling ball is 54 inches. And some consider 54 days the perfect amount of time before a trip to book a flight. But for those who are immersed in the Head Start world, 54 has an even more important meaning. On May 18, 2019, Head Start celebrated its 54th birthday.

The Partnership celebrated Head Start’s 54th birthday at multiple sites across the 16-county service area.

On May 18th, 1965, in the White House Rose Garden, President Lyndon B. Johnson announced to the nation the creation of Project Head Start. Since that date, more than 32 million children and their families have benefited from Head Start. Each child and family has a story. Each has experienced different outcomes. All have been prepared for school, work, and life, thanks to Head Start.

In the last 54 years, we have seen the birth of the internet, our first African-American president, the advent of electric cars, and so many more improvements on our daily lives. But none so impactful as the the quality of early childhood education provided by Head Start.

In addition to life and school preparedness, Head Start is also the nation’s laboratory for early learning innovation. Head Start offers a unique whole child/whole family program design coupled with a delivery system that includes local programs, national standards, monitoring, professional development, and family engagement. This has been the basis for many subsequent statewide and community initiatives.

National Head Start Association

According to the National Head Start Association, children are 93% less likely to become a statistic in the foster care system when they participate in Head Start as compared to not enrolling in an early childhood education (ECE) program. No other ECE program can make that claim. And Head Start’s outcomes last well beyond a child’s last day of Head Start enrollment. Compared with children who were cared for exclusively by parents during early childhood, the performance of Head Start children on cognitive and social-emotional measures in kindergarten exceeded those of their peers. Plus, children who had completed a Head Start program had fewer attention and behavior problems as their peers.

Children learning through play in an Early Head Start classroom

The Partnership’s early childhood programs include Early Head Start, Preschool Head Start, Pre-K, EHS Home Bound, First Teacher Home Visiting, and Child Care Partnerships. For program year 2018, more than 2,600 children and families received early childhood education services that included health and wellness screenings, developmental screenings, and family engagement opportunities in addition to the classroom education provided for enrolled children. Across six developmental domains (math, literacy, cognitive, language, physical, and social-emotional), children enrolled in Partnership programs exhibited an average of 23% gains in development from fall to spring.

Thanks to Head Start’s Learning Outcomes Framework and Program Performance Standards, children enrolled in Head Start benefit from one of the nation’s oldest and most successful early childhood programs in history. The War on Poverty continues. And so does the commitment of Head Start grantees across the nation to provide the highest quality early childhood education possible to help move children and families out of poverty for good.

Author: Community Action Partnership of North Alabama

Community Action Partnership of North Alabama (The Partnership) is a member of the national Community Action Partnership network. Community Action Partnership is a national 501(c)3 nonprofit membership organization that provides technical assistance, training and other resources to Community Action Agencies, nonprofit and public groups funded by the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG), a federal program that allocates funding to states to combat poverty across the United States.

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