When it comes to quality, Kentucky’s Head Start programs have received a very high ranking. A Head Start administrator says a commitment to intense training is a major key to success. Since 1965, Head Start has been offering free early childhood education and other services to low income families.
Just last week, the National Institute for Early Education Research ranked Kentucky number two in program quality, second only to Vermont.
Kentucky Head Start Association Director Allyson Shelton says the teacher-student connection is essential. "You can have a beautiful classroom with a lot of materials. It looks like a great learning environment,” Shelton said. “But, if you have a teacher that doesn’t interact with children, they’re not learning and they’re not getting ready for school.”
Shelton says some 4000 staff members underwent focused training from 2007 to 2011. She says there are 32 Head Start programs in Kentucky with instruction available in every county.
Kentucky receives $130 million in federal funds for Head Start. Still, Shelton says, maintaining high quality costs money, “Programs are forced to raise quality which means investing more money into their programs and staff, which means that they have waiting lists for children that are deserving of being in those classrooms that are not,"
Shelton says about half of the state’s Head Start programs are operated in school buildings. The Head Start Administrator says the state funded pre-school program is very good and works well with Head Start.