Identifying Key Components of Parent Engagement

Identifying Key Components of Parent Engagement that Support the Head Start Advantage: Insights Gained from National Data

Since Head Start was created by the stroke of President Johnson’s pen in the White House’s Rose Garden on May 18, 1965, we have been celebrating Head Start’s impact on the lives of millions of children and families across the country. In more than five decades, Head Start and Early Head Start have reached more than 36 million children and their families, and the positive effects of Head Start can be seen across generations.

Children who attend Head Start are less likely to repeat a grade in school and more likely to complete college. Head Start alumni are doctors, lawyers, nurses, and proud, strong parents. They’re athletes, policemen and women, and foundation CEOs. Teachers, advocates, and authors.

And Head Start was at the beginning of it all.

But what do Head Start and Early Head Start do for families? NHSA’s new Parent Gauge tool now allows us to measure the components that coalesce into the Head Start Advantage.

So far this program year, staff have conducted more than 27,000 interviews with families, representing more than 9,000 hours of face-to-face conversations between Head Start staff and parents, to measure parent experience and the impact of our early childhood programs’ engagement efforts.

What have we learned so far about parents across the country?

  • More than three-quarters of parents report setting aside time to read with their child.
  • Throughout the program year, parents learn how program staff interact with children and it affects how they interact with their own child. The number of parents who reported this increased from 60% to 70% between just the beginning and middle of this year.
  • Head Start has a significant impact on helping parents of children with disabilities understand how their child’s condition affects his or her development.
  • Parents report very high rates (more than 90%) of making sure that their children receive regular medical and dental care.

Individual programs have also learned invaluable lessons from Parent Gauge interviews, from identifying opportunities to improve father engagement to involving the family in more reading at home to support their child’s language development.

Head Start and Early Head Start are unique in their commitment to supporting both children and families, in everything from school readiness to healthy habits and setting goals as a family.

The Parent Gauge team is proud to be helping programs measure and improve their engagement efforts with families to give Head Start children and parents the best experience possible. Want to learn more about how Parent Gauge can support your program? Email our team!

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