NHSA Launches the “Head Start Promise” to Bolster Head Start Workforce

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, NHSA announced an ambitious new collaboration with National University’s Sanford College of Education, designed to address the shortage of highly-qualified Head Start and Early Head Start professionals. This initiative–the Head Start Promise–creates a focused pathway designed for anyone who is committed to building a better future for America’s historically underserved children, families, and communities.

The launch of Head Start Promise comes at a time when the early learning sector has shrunk by 9.7 percent over the last three years. Our nation’s flagship early learning program, Head Start and Early Head Start, faces an acute shortage of qualified professionals. Results of a recent NHSA survey show 18% of Head Start staff positions vacant nationwide, with 77% of respondents reporting vacancies are higher than usual.

“Families and communities across the country are feeling the effects of the urgent and unremitting staffing shortage. To close the gap, we must invest in the education and success of those who are just entering this field and looking to make a long-term career in the profession,” said Yasmina Vinci, NHSA’s executive director. “This is about helping high-potential community leaders–those who wake up everyday excited to make a real difference in the lives of the children and families they serve–to have viable, long-term, rewarding careers in Head Start.”

The program will provide a more inclusive, affordable pathway to degree completion for the Head Start workforce, who are 7.7 times more likely than K-12 teachers to be living under the poverty line. Scholarships offered by National University to Head Start Promise Scholars will make enrollment affordable to all eligible Head Start and Early Head Start staff.  Promise Scholars who are 100% eligible for a Pell Grant can earn each certificate for less than $900 out-of-pocket.

“Colleges of education have a unique responsibility to help address the nationwide shortage of talent by developing offerings that meet the needs of the birth-to-five workforce,” said Dr. Robert Lee, dean of the Sanford College of Education at National University. “The Head Start Promise is about increasing equity and opportunity for those who serve our youngest learners. It’s about providing greater recognition—and college credit—removing barriers and paving the way to earning a degree.”

Head Start Promise academic pathway consists of five stackable certificates that provide Head Start and Early Head Start professionals with a flexible pathway to a bachelor’s degree—along with scaffolded academic support to help achieve their goals.

About NHSA

The National Head Start Association is committed to the belief that every child, regardless of circumstances at birth, has the ability to succeed in school and in life. The opportunities offered by Head Start lead to healthier, empowered children and families, and stronger, more vibrant communities. NHSA is the voice for more than 840,000 children and families from systemically underserved populations, 250,000 staff, and 1,600 Head Start grant recipients. ••• Media Contact: Emily Wagner, Director of Communications, media@nhsa.org

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