The Anne Arundel County Community Action Agency’s six Head Start centers have all achieved accreditation by the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE). To be accredited means the agency’s Head Start program has achieved highest quality and reflects research-based, best practices in early childhood education. Head Start children benefit because their learning environments are exciting, positive, and growth-oriented. Parents benefit because their children are enrolled in stimulating learning environments. Accredited programs, such as Community Action’s, increase the chances for young children to be better prepared to enter kindergarten and the grades beyond.
The Head Start staff at each of the six centers spent seven months going through the accreditation process. To prepare for the process, many changes were made to strengthen the program to better serve low-income children in our community. In order to reach the goal of achieving MSDE accreditation, Community Action’s Head Start adopted a new curriculum, a comprehensive developmental and behavioral screening process, and revamped their professional development program. In addition, they added three new Education Coordinators to better facilitate the new initiatives.
“Our Head Start program really focused on building a higher quality program,” stated Portia McConnell, Community Action’s Director of Children’s Services, which administers the Head Start program. “We implemented a new curriculum that helped our teachers to close the gaps in learning. We moved to studies instead of themes, which allowed the children to spend more time working on a topic and really investigate and use discovery methods to learn everything they can about it. We observed our teachers using strategies from our CLASS tool, which helped inform our professional development to make our teachers better. “
“Community Action is committed to providing the best programming to members of the community, which is reflected by the hard work and many hours the staff put into the process,” said Gretchen Huntley, CEO of the Community Action. “Our goal is to make children enrolled in the Head Start program show the biggest gains in kindergarten readiness skills.
“Achieving MSDE accreditation is great and we will continue to build quality in our program by going to the next level, which is to become a Center of Excellence,” added Ms. McConnell.
Recently, Community Action increased the number of classrooms and teachers to accommodate the addition of nine new full-day classrooms, while seven classrooms continue to offer a half-day program. Each year, over 400 children are served by the Head Start Program in Anne Arundel County.
Head Start centers are located in Annapolis (Annapolis Gardens and Obery), Shady Side, Freetown, Brooklyn Park, and Meade Village.