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Published: Tuesday, 8/19/2014

Early intervention staple of Head Start program

Educators affirm classroom readiness


Toledo-area educators Tuesday got a head start on readying infants, toddlers, and children for school.

At a meeting of Head Start professionals, educators learned the nuances of a program being implemented in the region that was two years in the making.

“We are now birth-to-5 as opposed to a 3-to-5 program,” said Amy Allen, transformational leader of Toledo Public Schools. “We also are able to serve pregnant women as well.”

The program is funded with a five-year grant that supplies $8 million per year, Ms. Allen said. It will focus on making sure children are able to be active participants in their classrooms once they reach kindergarten, she said.

“The most important skills we want children to leave Head Start with are pre-academic skills: the ability to attend, the ability to understand, and the ability to communicate. They are the skills children need to be good learners.”

The program also offers medical screenings to detect health deficiencies in children that might stunt the learning process.

TPS Superintendent Romules Durant said vision, hearing, and nutritional programs will help students learn on an even playing field.

“The best intervention is prevention,” he said. “The earlier on you can begin to intervene on the educational and architectural patterns of a child’s mind, between birth to 3, as well as 3 to 5, the more you can get a return on every dollar invested in early education.”

The children taking part in the Early Head Start program come from families in or on the cusp of poverty, said Barbara Haxton, executive director of the Ohio Head Start Association. Giving those children the same tools as their peers will help them in the long run, she said.

“The most significant challenge for Head Start children is they come from family situations where there is deprivation,” Ms. Haxton said. “They don’t have access to technology or access to large vocabularies.

“The key is literacy. If these children don’t learn to read — the number of prison beds are projected by third grade reading scores.”

Kris Turner can be reached at: kturner@theblade.com or 419-724-6103.

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