COVID19 brought many challenges to CAHS, but we were still able to have a successful, if unusual, year. During the two-week stay-at-home order in March, the entire CAHS staff began examining what teaching in this pandemic would look like and how we could continue to serve the community. We not only met our goal of reaching every family and child we support, but we were also able to bridge the technology gap with our families with support from the community and our funders. Every enrolled child and every teacher received a device to support remote learning and working. We equipped all staff with the necessary PPE equipment to remain safe in their work environments. We continued our focus on furthering the education of CAHS staff, and 27 people received a credential, AA, BA, or Masters degree.
This year, 98% of our preschool families have health insurance, 99% have a medical home, 97% of our children are up to date with immunizations, and 98%have a dental home. For Early Head Start, 99% of the children have health insurance, and 100% have a medical home.
Even though it has been a difficult year for our community and families, CAHS has remained a constant source of support. Thank you to everyone that has provided support throughout this year. We value each and every one of you.
We recently researched and compiled the data for our 2020-2025 Community Assessment. The new assessment will be completed for submission with our 2020-2025 Federal Grant Application in April 2020.
We believe that parents are the first and foremost teachers of their children, and we encourage family participation in CAHS activities. We engage parents as partners to help their children progress. All of our centers and home-based locations facilitate parent meetings, including workshops on school readiness, nutrition, transitioning to school, budgeting, parenting, children’s health and development, and other topics requested by parents.
Every enrolled Parent Engagement family has the opportunity to access ReadyRosie, a research-based family engagement and early learning resource that provides a comprehensive family curriculum based on well-established theories and research. Along with research-based workshops for parents, families have access to short, modeled moments videos which demonstrate enjoyable, easy activities families can do in their daily routine to strengthen bonds and build learning and skills to get children ready for school.
Our program motto “Take care of yourself. Take care of your friends. Take care of your home and school.” is at the heart of PBIS implementation. Below are some accomplishments to date and the ongoing effects of the PBIS model:
Teachers and home visitors use an evidence-based, ongoing, individualized assessment process to ensure that all children progress toward school readiness and their individualized goals. Children’s progress is formally rated three times each year. CAHS uses the Child Observation Record (COR), a research-based assessment aligned with our HighScope curriculum. COR is used in all preschool center and home-based settings and is cross-walked with the Partners for a Healthy Baby curriculum used in Early Head Start. It is designed to assess children ages 0-5 years on a continuum of growth from infancy through preschool.
Educational outcome averages in 2019-2020 for children ages 3-5 show growth of greater than one year in all domains within a nine-month school year period. Among the highest-scoring indicators for 3-and 4-year olds were Fine and Gross motor skills; Building relationships with other children; Personal care and healthy behavior; Book enjoyment and knowledge; Problem-solving with materials, and Community. These high scoring areas are consistent with the previous year’s outcomes.
2018-2019 educational outcomes suggested that increased attention was needed to support children’s early literacy skills development. As a result, all preschool teaching staff received 4-6 hours of additional training in foundational literacy skills and ways to incorporate these kinds of experiences more intentionally into their teaching. Phonological awareness and Alphabetic knowledge indicators showed higher scores and greater gains in 2019-2020 compared to the prior year.
Early Head Start children showed the most progress in the Creative Arts domains, which include Music, Art, Pretend Play, and Movement. This may reflect the increased role of parents in their children’s learning in 2019-2020 due to visits being conducted virtually for the latter part of the year. Many materials promoting these and other domains were provided to families once this transition took place.
The COR Assessment is based on 34 indicators across eight developmental domains: Approaches to Learning, Social and Emotional Development, Physical Development and Health, Language, Literacy and Communication, Mathematics, Creative Arts, Science and Technology, and Social Studies. Based on extensive and ongoing anecdotal observations, teachers and home visitors assign a rating to each child’s progress in all indicators three times a year in October, February, and May. COR also allows for meaningful parent input, as parents share observations of children’s progress at home with the teaching staff. These observations are incorporated into the assessment to help provide a more complete picture of each child’s growth and development. In the spring of 2020, with fewer face-to-face opportunities to observe children, teachers provided learning resources and information to parents to encourage confidence in sharing their own observations and input, which is critical to accurately assessing children’s progress.
CAHS has program goals for school readiness, which include goals for children ages 0-5 and goals for parents and families in all areas of development. Our school readiness goals align with PA Early Learning Standards and the Head Start Child Development and Early Learning Framework. They promote skills to prepare children for success in school and in life and were developed with input from parents and school districts. Our school readiness goals have been revised to reflect our new assessment, the HighScope Child Observation Record.
In August 2018, parents began receiving support in fostering school readiness skills at home through ReadyRosie, a research-based parenting curriculum.
An integral part of our school readiness goals is preparing children for kindergarten. This preparation begins long before the final year before kindergarten, as even infants and toddlers are supported in their learning to acquire the skills they need to grow and develop. As noted earlier, CAHS provides comprehensive services and activities to support children to grow educationally, emotionally, socially, and physically. Our classrooms use the HighScope curriculum, which is based on key developmental indicators that align with the Pennsylvania Early Learning Standards, to ensure a quality learning experience. These developmental indicators focus on:
Outcomes are collected in all these areas. The HighScope curriculum also includes indicators for English language learners as they begin to acquire English. CAHS uses the PATHS (Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies) curriculum to assist children to learn important social and emotional skills for success in school and life. Children learn feelings identification, empathy, cooperative play, fair play skills, and problem solving.
To support and assist children and families to successfully transition to kindergarten, teachers carefully plan activities to introduce the school experience, including:
In addition to prepare parents for their children going to kindergarten, we provide them with information about the transition process. We hold parent meeting discussions and provide parents with informational flyers on kindergarten registration and orientation, and remind parents of this information through handouts and newsletters. CAHS staff also attend community group meetings and training that address communication, collaboration, and supporting families through the transition process. Staff work regularly to build and maintain relationships with the school staff in the districts where our children and families live.
We received several grants and formed new partnerships to benefit children and families.
We celebrated many notable accomplishments, both in and out of the classroom.
We receive both public and private funds to continue our mission. Three quarters of our budget is spent on salaries and benefits, and the remaining funding is dedicated to service operations, including parent activities, classroom supplies, and professional development.
|Approved Budget for 2019-2020 Fiscal Year|
|Heath and Human Services Head Start||$6,973,849.00|
|Early Head Start Pennsylvania Department of Education||$1,538,688.00|
|Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program||$2,277,946.00|
|OCDEL Home visitation|
|Capital Area Intermediate Unit||$301,630.00|
The ability to find stable, high quality, and affordable classroom space in the areas of greatest need in Harrisburg and Steelton has become our most pressing and ongoing challenge. We have been working with school districts, churches, community advocates, and realtors to try and find space. Our waiting list numbers continue to increase, as to various other funding avenues. However, the lack of space makes any expansion increasingly difficult.
Recruitment and retention of qualified and diverse early childhood staff has also been a struggle for us, as well as all early childhood programs throughout Pennsylvania. Balancing budgets and implementing unfunded mandates and new initiatives that various funders require also remains an ongoing challenge. In addition, aggressive and unsafe behaviors occurring in classrooms have increased.
Capital Area Head Start continues to help families navigate challenges and barriers related to accessing appropriate supports for children with challenging behaviors. Waiting lists at provider agencies often create a situation where a child’s safe participation is delayed until needed supports are in place and successful.
To address these challenges, Capital Area Head Start, in coordination with Keystone Human Services, is actively participating in ongoing strategic planning to ensure that we continue to address the external and internal challenges, as well as maintain strong service performance and financial positions.
In response to the ever changing needs of children and families, Capital Area Head Start embraces the future, confident that it will continue to expand and positively impact the communities of central Pennsylvania.