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April 7-10, 2017
44th Annual National Head Start Conference and Expo
Chicago, Illinois

Policy Institute

Each January and September, NHSA hosts sold-out Leadership Institutes in Washington where leaders from the field delve into the latest policy issues facing Head Start and early childhood. These institutes offer important opportunities to explore the always interesting political landscape, and hear the latest developments straight from beltway insiders.

This year we’re bringing the Institute to Chicago - at the April national conference in Chicago, we will present a full-day Policy Institute dedicated to policy, politics, legislation, and the future of Head Start.

Essentially a miniature Leadership Institute, the Policy Institute will offer a deep dive into several topics vital to Head Start's success. It is designed for program directors, state leadership, and parent leaders.

Sessions include:

Sustaining Head Start’s Gains in K-12: Part I (Policy)

This summer marks a historic time as education leaders in states create and submit their state plans detailing how they intend to implement provisions within the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Leaders are presented with numerous opportunities within ESSA to think more comprehensively about children’s learning by establishing policies and practices that support a continuum of learning from early childhood through graduation. Come hear from policy experts and thought leaders as they discuss the ways in which ESSA can support building beneficial connections between early childhood and K-12.

Sustaining Head Start’s Gains in K-12: Part II (Practice)

Head Start programs have a long history of partnering with their local education agencies both to deliver high quality early learning opportunities and support children as they move from early childhood programs into kindergarten. Come hear from leading practitioners in the Head Start field who devised innovative and partnerships with their local schools to deliver comprehensive services to families, support the professional development of teachers, and assist children as the move from Head Start into kindergarten.  

Public Policy Luncheon: Fueling the Advantage

This is a ticketed event.

Luncheon Speaker: J.B. Pritzker.

J.B. Pritzker is an entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist. He is Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Pritzker Group, a private investment firm.  With his wife M.K., he leads the Pritzker Family Foundation. He led the campaign to build the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center and is one of the nation's leading supporters of high quality early childhood education.

Updates from the Capital: What's Next for Head Start

In 2015 and 2016, Head Start experienced almost unprecedented support by Congress – both House and Senate funding bills provided Head Start with a funding increase while making substantial cuts elsewhere, the House Education and Workforce committee held a hearing -praising Head Start and specifically its work with parents – and the Administration. But, with a new Congress and a new Administration, will we be able to carry that momentum forward as funding deadlines loom? What does all this mean for the future of Head Start? This session, led by NHSA’s Director of Government Affairs, will seek to answer those questions. It will first look at the political climate in Washington and then explore the opportunities and challenges ahead for Head Start. No matter if you are a first-time advocate or a seasoned veteran, this session will be worthwhile!

Paying for Our Success: Innovative Financing Strategies

With federal Head Start funding levels remaining uncertain, it is more critical than ever to explore alternative financing sources and approaches to key services and infrastructure. This session will examine innovative financing strategies that nontraditional sectors are using to support successful early learning models like Head Start.

Integrated Data: Policy to Practice

Over the years, Head Start has been increasingly relying on data to drive program improvement and increase outcomes for the children and families it serves. So now the question becomes how can programs and local governments use that data to drive improvement at the community level? This session will explore how integrated data systems allow for better community planning and foster stronger collaborations between local service providers.

Research and Quality Institute

The amount of fresh research about Head Start; the innovative work across the country on utilizing data; and progress implementing the new Performance Standards are nothing short of breathtaking. We are excited to be able to spend an entire day sharing these developments. We’ll be joined by senior OHS staff, staff from programs engaging in really interesting projects, and researchers turning assumptions on their heads. Don’t miss the luncheon on workforce development!

Sessions include:

Using Data to Create Impact: Learning from an Innovative Network

Experts from the Educare Learning Network and Ounce of Prevention Fund will educate attendees on best practices learned from their experience with the Educare data and quality improvement process.

Implementing and Monitoring the New Head Start Program Performance Standards: 2017 Office of Head Start Priorities

This session is a unique opportunity for conference attendees to spend time with Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Early Childhood Development Colleen Rathgeb and Acting Director of the Office of Head Start Anne Linehan. Their  special session is designed to allow parents, staff, and program leadership to learn more about the new Program Performance Standards. Both played key roles in the development of the new Standards and are more familiar with them than anyone else.  This is a great chance to have questions answered.

Strengthening Internal Reporting:  Creating Real-time Updates with Data Visuals

The Riverside County Office of Education uses tablet-based monitoring to produce real-time data reports, including cutting-edge data visualization. Come hear from Riverside staff about their process for collecting and analyzing data for continuous quality improvement. This session will be a great introduction and case study for programs interested in taking the first steps towards implementing CQI in their centers.

Monitoring the New Standards: A Deeper Dive

In 2017, as Head Start programs implement the new requirements of the Head Start Program Performance Standards, the Office of Head Start will be hard at work rethinking and reframing a new monitoring system--and the work is already underway! Join Blair Hyatt, co-chair of NHSA’s Monitoring Redesign Task Force,  to hear the group's recommendations. Then, hear from the Office of Head Start about what they have done and the work ahead.

Research and Quality Luncheon: Strategies for Growing Your Own Workforce

Catherine Main is a senior lecturer and program coordinator in the College of Education and a visiting scholar on the Early Investments Initiative with the Institute of Government and Public Affairs (IGPA) at the University of Illinois.

Previewing NHSA's New Parent, Family and Community Engagement Tool

In partnership with NORC at the University of Chicago and the Region 5 Head Start Association, NHSA has developed a tool to measure Parent, Family, and Community Engagement. At this special session, NHSA will be officially launching this new tool, which will offer Head Start grantees an opportunity to systematically measure and analyze the impact of the program on the families they serve. Come learn about the tool and about how you can bring it into your program.

Leveraging Partnerships for Success: Community-Based Best Practices

The delivery of health services in Head Start is one of our greatest assets but can also be one of our greatest challenges. Come hear about the innovative strategies that three programs have employed to most efficiently meet the health needs of their children and families. Moderated by Carolyn Lyons from the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, the panel will discuss their strategies for success, from approaches health-related parent engagement to successful collaboration within their communities to financial sustainability.

Innovative and Free Resources Supported by PNC Grow Up Great ©

Learn about free, high quality, innovative resources available to you through PNC Grow Up Great. For example, the Lesson Center website contains over 100 easy-to-implement lesson plans in the arts and science! ( Get hands-on experience with the Lesson Center and other resources and leave the session prepared to integrate them into your work.