Every day, nearly one million children across the country walk through the doors of their local Head Start center and begin working, playing and learning their way toward success in Kindergarten and in life. This month we celebrate the rich history of Head Start. For more than 46 years, Head Start has served over 28 million children and their families by promoting school readiness through providing educational, health, nutritional, social and other services.
Under the Obama Administration, Head Start programs have continued to flourish and expand. With funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Head Start has helped an additional 61,000 children and created 12,000 new jobs. It has also stimulated economic recovery in hard hit communities, as facilities are being built and renovated and local businesses are tapped to provide construction, food, and other services.
While we know through extensive research that Head Start helps prepare our most vulnerable children for kindergarten, we also know that we can do better. We want to ensure that more children benefit from quality Head Start programs, and that those benefits continue through their school years. That is why the Office of Head Start has launched a reform agenda that is bold, innovative, and built on the best evidence available. These reforms are designed to ensure that all Head Start children are ready for success in kindergarten and that all Head Start programs are high quality and well managed.
Today in Washington, DC – thousands of Head Start leaders from across the country are gathered to hear updates on the latest quality initiatives in Head Start and receive the latest tools and techniques to bring back to their communities.
Our Head Start children and families deserve the highest quality services from the most capable organizations. Our Roadmap to Excellence initiatives are designed to make sure that happens through the best professional guidance, through comprehensive professional development, and through showcasing model programs throughout the country.
Despite the challenges that often face our children and families, Head Start staff across the country provide a consistent, caring, and stimulating environment to meet the educational and developmental needs of a million Head Start children. Every Head Start classroom across the nation is filled with children with incredible promise.
Head Start programs, whether they’re in small towns, large cities or on reservations, are providing a lifeline to low income children and their families across the country. For many of our children, this will be the first time they receive a medical or dental check or their first chance to hold a book. In every classroom I visit, I am reminded that Head Start plays a critical role in ensuring that each child in Head Start has an equal shot at the American dream.
Yvette Sanchez Fuentes is Director, Office of Head Start