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Head Start: Increased Percentage of Teachers Nationwide Have Required Degrees, but Better Information on Classroom Teachers' Qualifications Needed

GAO-04-5 Published: Oct 01, 2003. Publicly Released: Oct 01, 2003.
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The 1998 Head Start Act mandated that 50 percent of all Head Start teachers nationwide have a minimum of an associate degree in early childhood education, or, in a related field with preschool teaching experience, by September 30, 2003. This law also required that each classroom in center-based programs (those that primarily provide services in classroom settings) without such a degreed teacher have a teacher with a Child Development Associate credential or an equivalent state certificate. In preparation for the reauthorization of Head Start in fiscal year 2003, GAO was asked to examine: (1) the extent to which Head Start has met legislative mandates concerning teacher qualifications; (2) whether Head Start teachers' salaries have increased and enabled grantees to attract and retain teachers with degrees; and (3) the extent to which degree and other programs in early childhood education are available for Head Start teachers and if grantees have taken steps to enhance access to them.

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Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Health and Human Services The Secretary of Health and Human Services should require that ACF, at least annually, collect data from Head Start grantees and report to the Secretary on whether each classroom in Head Start centers has at least one teacher with at least the minimum credentials required by law.
Closed – Implemented
The Head Start Bureau has established a mechanism for collecting information on classroom teachers' qualifications, which will provide current information on the credentials held by teachers. Specifically, data collected in the agency's Computer Based Reporting System for support of the Head Start National Reporting System include information on classroom teacher qualifications.

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Aid for educationHigher educationPersonnel qualificationsPreschool educationSalary increasesTeacher educationTeacher salariesTeachersEpidemicsHead Start programs