ROCK SPRINGS – For many years there have been discussions on how to better prepare children before they begin their educational journey. Twenty years ago, Sweetwater County School District No. 1 took action and implemented Head Start in the district.
For the past 20 years, Head Start has been working hard to give children educational advantages. The program in SWCSD No. 1 is the youngest Head Start Program in Wyoming. Head Start Director June Privitt said over the past 20 years 1,984 students and families have received the comprehensive services Head Start provides.
The success of Head Start relies on not only a strong partnership with the SWCSD No. 1 but several other community partners. Privitt said Sweetwater County School District No. 2 has been a valuable partner as year after year the administration has ensured that Head Start has a location to provide services to 20 Green River children.
Other important partnerships Privitt pointed to included Southwest Counseling Services, Sweetwater County Child Developmental Center, Best Developmental Center and Best Beginnings just to name a few.
“We are very grateful to all our partners because with them, children and families receive the very best services available,” Privitt said. “Thank you to all who have helped make our first 20 years successful and memorable.”
2013/2014 enrollment statistics
Head Start is federally funded to serve 100 Sweetwater County children ages three- to four-years-old and their families who meet Federal Poverty Guidelines. There can only be a maximum of 10 percent who are over the income limit.
Children are served in four classrooms in Rock Springs and one in Green River. The actual 2013/2014 enrollment was 108 children from 102 families. The average monthly enrollment was 99, and this does not account for vacancies filled within the 30-day time limit.
Of the students, 33 percent were Hispanic/Latino. Privitt said they have a bilingual staff and can serve these students. Of the total enrollment, 88 percent qualified with income at or below poverty levels. Ten percent were categorically eligible – six verified homeless, and five were in foster/kinship care – and 2 percent were over income, both in Green River.
While Head Start focuses on helping these students get an early jump educationally with an easy transition to the public school system, they also focus on several other life issues.
Of the children served, 104 of the enrolled children or 97 percent, received medical and exams during the year. Around 96 percent of the students received dental exams during the school year, and 92 percent of the children needing dental treatment received it during the school year.
Privitt said some developmental screenings were conducted on site. Hearing and vision screenings were conducted on site, mental health services were provided on site and most disability services were provided on site.
Head Start also has a nutrition program that provides ample amounts of healthy foods. Privitt said the nutrition program is required to be, and continues to be, self-supporting.
Head Start parents engaged with the program at many levels, and Privitt explained they “are vital to our success.”
All parents received orientation into the Head Start program that included opportunities for engagement. Families received advocacy and crisis intervention services and referrals to other community resources as needed.
“Our Fall and Spring Programs successfully demonstrated the children’s growth and increased skill development,” she said.
Examples of parent and family engagement, training & activity opportunities included: Policy Council Nominations/Elections NHSA Training Conference, Program Governance Healthy Activities (Family Field Day), 20th Anniversary Open House 1825 Club Activities (male involvement). Other examples include Nature Walk/Discovery School Readiness Goals Review Projects for the Art Show, Parent Lunch & Learn events included Bridges Out of Poverty Speaker, Raising Readers Pinewood Derby (highlighted literacy), Also available are Sewing Basics, Bowls of Sharing & Family Dance, Cleaning & Organizing Tips, and Pirates & Mateys (boost literacy skills at home).
Like any schools, there are student assessments to make sure students are where they need to be in the educational process. At Head Start, the School Readiness Outcomes result from measuring each child’s ability to achieve the indicators established in our School Readiness Goals. The goals were developed using the Head Start Child Development & Early Learning Framework, the Common Core Standards for kindergarten, the Instructional Foundations for Kindergarten and valuable input from kindergarten teachers and Head Start parents and staff.
The Head Start Child Development & Early Learning Framework is intended to guide Head Start programs in their ongoing assessment of the developmental progress of children. It also guides program efforts to analyze and use data in program self-assessments and continuous improvement. The framework includes 11 domains, 37 domain elements and over 100 examples of more specific indicators of children’s abilities, knowledge, and behaviors.
Privitt said the local program uses the Teaching Strategies Gold assessment. Though the tool aligns well with the Head Start Child Development & Early Learning Framework, it does not assess all Head Start Framework domains. Children are assessed three times: once in the fall, once in the winter and once in the spring.
Privitt said the children assessed were very nearly 100 percent ready for kindergarten in all assessed domains by the end of the year last year. She also explained these children began the 2013/2014 Head Start year with skill levels above or very nearly at 50 percent. This result may be due, in part, to the 25 percent who were second year Head Start students. Privitt said it was unknown what percentage of that 25 percent were also children with limited English proficiency, on an IEP or both.
The greatest gains were in the Literacy, Math and Cognitive development. Only children who are 4-years-old and are expected to advance to Kindergarten and those who were enrolled for all assessment periods are reflected. Of the 71 children assessed (66 percent of the number served), 21 percent were Spanish-speaking, 31 percent were on an IEP and 25 percent were in their second year of Head Start.
“Our program uses assessment data to inform parents about their child’s individual progress, to work with parents to set goals for their child, and as one tool to determine what areas of our education services could be strengthened,” Privitt said. “We use individual classroom outcomes to help us determine training needs for our staff.”
The final item in the annual report is funding. While most of the funding comes from the federal government, Privitt explained they are also responsible for in-kind funding that is non-federal value of donated time, services, and space.
The total of all funding sources usually comes in around $1,050,000. Privitt also explained they conduct an audit each year and the audit for the period ending June 30, 2013 showed no issues in the Head Start Program.
SWCSD No. 1 Board member and liaison to Head Start Emma Waldner said she was continually amazed at how much Head Start does which such limited funding.