Full-Day Head Start Begins in 10 Elementaries

August 21, 2007
Head Start Expands to a Full-Day Program in 10 Title I Elementary Schools

Enhanced Program Responds to Research Citing the Value of Increasing Access to Early Education Opportunities

Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) will expand Head Start to a full-day program in 10 Title I elementary schools for the 2007–2008 school year. Head Start is a federally funded prekindergarten program for children impacted by poverty. It promotes school readiness by enhancing cognitive and social development. Head Start also provides educational, health, nutritional, social, and other services to enrolled children and families.

“The full-day Head Start program is a natural extension of the MCPS Early Success Performance Plan, which began seven years ago with smaller class size and extended instructional time in kindergarten classes most impacted by poverty,” said Dr. Jerry D. Weast, superintendent of schools. “We have seen the benefits in student achievement that result from providing our youngest students with a challenging and supportive academic experience.”

Full-day Head Start will serve 260 4-year-old students in 13 classes this year. The expansion is being funded through an increase of approximately $715,000 in Title I federal funds for the 2007–2008 school year. Half-day sessions for approximately 313 4-year-old students and 45 3-year-old students will continue to be offered in MCPS schools.

Head Start programs administered by MCPS are led by certified teachers and trained paraeducators. This opportunity to increase the amount of time during which these students will receive instruction, particularly in the areas of literacy and mathematics, will help them enter kindergarten with the academic and social skills that they need to be successful.

“Our children’s readiness for school is affected by poverty and so many other disadvantages that occur outside of school. To help children succeed, Head Start provides the much-needed combination of a high-quality academic program with family support services,” said Shirley Brandman, vice president of the Montgomery County Board of Education. “Not only does Head Start enhance cognitive skills, but research has proven that a high-quality pre-kindergarten program can greatly enhance children’s social and emotional development as well. It is a critically important step to be able to offer full-day Head Start in our elementary schools.”

A National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) study, “Is More Better? The Effects of Full-Day vs. Half-Day Preschool on Early School Achievement,” affirms the advantages of a full-day program for children disadvantaged by poverty. “…The results clearly indicate that duration matters. Extended-day preschool of good quality had dramatic and lasting effects on children’s learning across a broad range of knowledge and skills.”

"I congratulate Montgomery County on expanding Head Start to a full-day program in some schools," said Congressman Chris Van Hollen. “I am a big believer in Head Start and am pleased to report that the House-passed Head Start reauthorization will increase access to this vital early childhood education program for many thousands of deserving young children while improving teacher quality and expanding accountability for first-rate results. I am optimistic that Congress will send the President forward-looking Head Start legislation this year."

The extended time provided by the full-day program provides a number of additional opportunities for learning, including more math and literacy instruction; additional art, music, and physical education; and extended opportunities for social interaction and oral language and vocabulary development. A full-day schedule will allow the young students to experience a smoother, more integrated school day. An added benefit will be decreased child care expenses for many of the participating families.

The 10 elementary schools with Head Start in 2007-2008 are Arcola, Broad Acres, East Silver Spring, Georgian Forest, Highland, Montgomery Knolls, New Hampshire Estates, Twinbrook, Viers Mill, and Weller Road. The success of this pilot program will be carefully evaluated in anticipation of possible expansion into additional classrooms in the 2008–2009 school year.

MCPS also offers a half-day prekindergarten progam for students who are eligible for Free and Reduced-price Meal Services (FARMS) in 52 elementary schools. This program is funded through the school system’s operating budget and includes many of the services provided by Head Start.

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