One Approach To Head Start: To Help Kids, Help Their Parents

Posted on April 29, 2014
NPR Logo

By Eric Westervelt, NPR

President Obama has called repeatedly on Congress to help states pay
for "high-quality preschool" for all. In fact, those two words — "high
quality" — appear time and again in the president's prepared remarks.
They are also a refrain among early childhood education advocates and
researchers. But what do they mean? And what separates the best of the
nation's preschool programs from the rest?

NPR found one answer
to those questions in Tulsa, Okla. The city is known as a national
leader in early childhood education. There, preschool means teachers are
unusually well-educated, well-trained and well-paid. Educators in Tulsa
have worked to make classrooms safe and nurturing, but also
challenging.

Another key to Tulsa's strategy: It innovates. Case in point is the city's approach to
the controversial $8 billion federal preschool program that aims to
prepare low-income children for kindergarten. Organizers at the
nonprofit Community Action Project of Tulsa County run a particular take
on Head Start called Career Advance, and the idea behind it is simple:
To help kids, you often have to help their parents.

Conservatives
have long blasted Head Start as an ineffective, Great Society relic
that fails to improve academic outcomes for children over time. But CAP
Tulsa believes its approach to Head Start is potentially game changing.
CAP Tulsa strategically links Head Start services for kids with
intensive parental support, including education and training to help
parents build careers in nursing or other related health care fields.

And the program isn't just about learning to write a good resume.
Career Advance offers some serious hand-holding for struggling parents,
including life coaches and financial bonuses.

Click here to read more.