The National Head Start Association is embarking on intentional work designed to systematically seed the kernels of impact and effectiveness that Head Start is known for. We are engaging the Head Start community in a discussion about impact and helping our members continue Head Start’s legacy of leadership as the early learning landscape evolves. Our work is supported by research that clearly demonstrates that the lowest-income and most at-risk children benefit the most from high quality early care and education.

When President Johnson appointed Sargent Shriver to lead his administration’swar on poverty in 1964, Dr. Robert Cooke of Johns Hopkins University was recruited to head a committee whose recommendations would lead to Head Start. Dr. Cooke assembled a panel of experts in child development, early education, health, nutrition and parental education to design a comprehensive program for the youngest, most at-risk children. We’re returning to our evidence-based roots and engaging with both internal and external experts. NHSA is committed to this effort because we believe that the carefully designed model of Head Start is evergreen.

We also believe in Head Start’s continuing role as the nation’s laboratory for early childhood development and education. The Child Development Associate (CDA) competency-based credential, Sesame Street, and Early Head Start - which brought the importance of early brain development into the consciousness of the country - are some of the major innovations that Head Start has introduced to policy makers and the public over the last 50 years. NHSA has renewed the idea of deriving lessons from experience and experimentation with the common elements of all early childhood systems: funding, standards, monitoring, professional development, and parental engagement. Given what we know about the quality of early experiences mattering the most with the most vulnerable children and families, we must persist and use these lessons to support practitioners in the continuous improvement of quality early childhood services for the children and families they work with.