oversight

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

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2003-10-01.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

               United States General Accounting Office

GAO            Report to Congressional Requesters




October 2003
               HEAD START
               Increased Percentage
               of Teachers
               Nationwide Have
               Required Degrees, but
               Better Information on
               Classroom Teachers’
               Qualifications Needed




GAO-04-5

                                                October 2003


                                                HEAD START

                                                Increased Percentage of Teachers
Highlights of GAO-04-5, a report to             Nationwide Have Required Degrees, but
congressional requesters
                                                Better Information on Classroom
                                                Teachers’ Qualifications Needed


The 1998 Head Start Act mandated                Head Start appears to meet the 1998 mandate because about 52 percent of
that 50 percent of all Head Start               Head Start teachers nationwide had, at a minimum, an associate degree in
teachers nationwide have a                      early childhood education or in a related field based on Administration for
minimum of an associate degree in               Children and Families (ACF) 2002 data. This represented more than a
early childhood education, or, in a             14-percentage point increase in teachers with such degrees since 1999.
related field with preschool
teaching experience, by September
30, 2003. This law also required that           Head Start Teachers with Degrees Increased Significantly between 1999 and 2002
each classroom in center-based                  Percent of teachers with degrees
programs (those that primarily                  60
provide services in classroom                                       51.7a
                                                50
settings) without such a degreed
teacher have a teacher with a Child             40      37.3
Development Associate credential
                                                30
or an equivalent state certificate. In
preparation for the reauthorization             20
of Head Start in fiscal year 2003,
                                                10
GAO was asked to examine: (1) the
extent to which Head Start has met                  0
legislative mandates concerning                         1999        2002
teacher qualifications; (2) whether             Source: GAO analysis of ACF data. (These data are self-reported by grantees.)
Head Start teachers’ salaries have
                                                Note: Head Start data on the percent of teachers with degrees were collected somewhat differently
increased and enabled grantees to               in 1998, limiting their comparability with data collected in subsequent years.
attract and retain teachers with
                                                a
degrees; and (3) the extent to                   The percentage of teachers with degrees in 2002 includes 3.8 percent with graduate degrees,
which degree and other programs                 24.8 percent with bachelor’s degrees, and 23 percent with associate degrees. (Does not add to
                                                51.7 percent due to rounding.)
in early childhood education are
available for Head Start teachers               Although ACF requested grantees to report both the numbers of teachers by
and if grantees have taken steps to
                                                type of degree or credential, and the numbers of classrooms, it is not
enhance access to them.
                                                possible to determine if there was a teacher with the credentials required by
                                                law in each classroom in Head Start centers since ACF did not ask grantees
                                                to report this specific information. Furthermore, the ACF monitoring
GAO recommends that the                         instrument used did not have a separate question that asked whether each
Secretary of Health and Human                   classroom had at least one teacher with at least minimum credentials.
Services require that ACF, at least
annually, collect data from Head                Quality improvement funds, which have declined sharply in recent years,
Start grantees and report to the                enabled Head Start to increase teacher salaries to levels comparable to other
Secretary on whether each
classroom in Head Start centers
                                                preschool teachers during the 1999-2001 period, although they remained at
has at least one teacher with at                about half of what kindergarten teachers earned nationally. Some Head Start
least the minimum credentials                   grantees continue to identify difficulties in competing for teachers with
required by law.                                degrees with existing salaries.

                                                Early childhood education and similar programs were available in all states
                                                and in one in five postsecondary institutions. However, as expected, the
www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-04-5.
                                                more rural, less populous states had few of these programs. Head Start
To view the full product, including the scope   grantees used a number of methods to make early childhood education
and methodology, click on the link above.       accessible to their teachers, such as offering on-site classes, but access to
For more information, contact Marnie Shaul at
(202) 512-7215 or shaulm@gao.gov.
                                                these programs in rural areas sometimes was a problem.
Contents 



Letter                                                                                     1
                Results in Brief                                                           3
                Background                                                                 5
                The Percent of Teachers with Degrees Has Risen and Appears to
                  Meet Legislated Goals for Progress, but It Is Unknown Whether
                  Each Classroom Has a Teacher with at Least Minimum
                  Credentials                                                              8
                Head Start Teacher Salaries Have Increased to Levels Comparable
                  to those of Preschool Teachers, but Some Grantees Reported
                  Difficulties Competing for Teachers with Degrees                       15
                Early Childhood Education Programs Were Available in All States
                  and Grantees Have Worked to Improve Access to Them, but
                  Access Is Still a Problem in Some Rural Areas                          23
                Conclusions                                                              28
                Recommendation                                                           28
                Agency Comments                                                          28

Appendix I      Scope and Methodology                                                     30



Appendix II 	   Comments from the Department of Health and
                Human Services                                                            33



Appendix III    GAO Contacts and Staff Acknowledgments                                    35
                GAO Contacts                                                             35
                Staff Acknowledgments                                                    35


Tables
                Table 1: Findings of Noncompliance Related to Teacher
                         Qualifications Over a 3-Year Review Cycle                       14
                Table 2: Head Start Teachers’ Annual Salaries Have Increased to
                         the Level of Other Preschool Teachers’ Annual Salaries          16
                Table 3: Quality Improvement Funding and Head Start
                         Appropriations, Fiscal Years 1999-2003                          16
                Table 4: Head Start Teacher Salaries Increased Significantly in All
                         Regions and Branches, 1998-2001                                 17




                Page i                                                   GAO-04-5 Head Start
          Table 5: Head Start Teacher Salaries Were Generally Higher at
                   Programs Administered by Schools in 2002                                         18
          Table 6: Head Start Teacher Degree Levels Were Higher at
                   Programs Administered by Schools in 2002                                         19
          Table 7: Number of Individual Program Completions, by Level, in
                   Early Childhood Education and Eight Similar Fields for the
                   1997-98 and 1999-2000 School Years                                               21
          Table 8: Number of Postsecondary Institutions with Students
                   Completing Programs in Early Childhood Education and
                   Eight Similar Fields for the 1997-98 and 1999-2000 School
                   Years                                                                            24


Figures
          Figure 1: The Percentage of Teachers with Degrees Has Increased
                   Significantly since 1999                                                          9
          Figure 2: More Than 50 Percent of Teachers in 7 of 10 Regions Had
                   Degrees as of 2002                                                               10
          Figure 3: All Regions and Branches Increased Percent of Teachers
                   with Degrees from 1999 to 2002                                                   12
          Figure 4: Head Start Teacher Turnover Rate Was Lowest at
                   Programs Administered by Schools in 2002                                         20



          Abbreviations

          ACF               Administration for Children and Families 

          BLS               Bureau of Labor Statistics 

          CDA               Child Development Associate 

          FACES             Family and Child Experiences Survey 

          HHS               Department of Health and Human Service 

          IPEDS             Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System 

          PIR               Program Information Report 

          PRISM             Program Review Instrument for Systems Monitoring 


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          Page ii                                                             GAO-04-5 Head Start
United States General Accounting Office
Washington, DC 20548




                                   October 1, 2003 


                                   The Honorable Edward M. Kennedy 

                                   Ranking Minority Member 

                                   Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions 

                                   United States Senate 


                                   The Honorable Christopher J. Dodd 

                                   Ranking Minority Member 

                                   Subcommittee on Children and Families 

                                   Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions 

                                   United States Senate 


                                   The Honorable George Miller 

                                   Ranking Minority Member 

                                   Committee on Education and the Workforce 

                                   House of Representatives 


                                   The Honorable Dale E. Kildee 

                                   House of Representatives 


                                   In fiscal year 2002, Head Start provided comprehensive child development 

                                   services to over 900,000 preschool children from low-income families, and 

                                   the program was funded by a federal appropriation of about $6.5 billion. 

                                   Over 1,500 grantees, including community action agencies, school systems, 

                                   for-profit and nonprofit organizations, other government agencies and 

                                   tribal consortia, provide Head Start program services either directly or 

                                   through delegate agencies. Classroom instruction provided by over 51,000 

                                   teachers in about 47,000 classrooms is a key element of the Head Start 

                                   program. In 1998, the Congress sought to raise the educational level of 

                                   these teachers by mandating that 50 percent of all Head Start classroom 

                                   teachers in Head Start centers 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 amendment also required that 

                                   each classroom without such a degreed teacher have a teacher with a 

                                   Child Development Associate (CDA) credential or a state certificate 





                                   Page 1                                                 GAO-04-5 Head Start
equivalent to a CDA. Some research indicates that preschool teachers with
higher levels of education are more effective at teaching young children.1

In light of the reauthorization of Head Start in fiscal year 2003 you asked
us to examine: (1) the extent to which Head Start has met legislative
mandates concerning teacher qualifications; (2) whether Head Start
teacher 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.

To respond to these questions we analyzed U.S. Department of Health and
Human Service’s (HHS) data on Head Start and Early Head Start programs.
Specifically, we analyzed HHS’s Administration for Children and Families’
(ACF) Program Information Report (PIR) data on teacher credentials and
salaries for 1998-2002. ACF collects these data each year from Head Start
and Early Head Start grantees. Our analysis revealed some inconsistencies
in these data similar to those identified by HHS’s Office of Inspector
General in its draft report on teacher qualifications covering program year
2000-2001, which was based largely on data from the PIR. We calculated
the percent of teachers with degrees based on the largest number of total
teachers reported in the PIR, rather than on the number of teachers
reported by educational level, which was smaller. In addition, to confirm
the reasonableness of these data, we also reviewed 1998 and 2000 data
relating to teacher qualifications from another source—ACF’s Family and
Child Experiences Survey (FACES). During our review, we also
interviewed officials from each of the 10 ACF regional offices and the
American Indian-Alaska Native and Migrant Branches and obtained
information from 30 Head Start grantees from all 10 geographic regions to
learn about efforts to increase the proportion of teachers with degrees. We
selected grantees in each region to obtain perspective on those that had
been successful in achieving a high proportion of teachers with degrees
and those that were having difficulty doing so. We visited 11 of these
grantees in 2 ACF regions. These grantees were in three states—Delaware,
Maryland, and Texas—and in the District of Columbia. Furthermore, we
compared average annual salaries of Head Start teachers taken from
program data with annual salaries of preschool and kindergarten teachers


1
 See, for example, National Research Council (2001) Eager to Learn: Educating Our
Preschoolers. Committee on Early Childhood Pedagogy. Barbara T. Bowman, M. Suzanne
Donavan, and M. Susan Burns, editors. Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and
Education, Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.




Page 2                                                           GAO-04-5 Head Start
                   as calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). ACF PIR data
                   reported by grantees included the average Head Start full-time teacher
                   salaries earned annually, regardless of the number of months worked
                   during the year. Salaries reported by the BLS for preschool and
                   kindergarten teachers were estimated average annual wages, based on
                   employer responses to a BLS survey. BLS does not distinguish between
                   full- and part-time workers and assumes that all work 2,080 hours annually
                   (which is a 40 hour work week for 1 year). Finally, we analyzed the U.S.
                   Department of Education data from the Integrated Postsecondary
                   Education Data System (IPEDS) to determine the number of schools
                   offering programs in early childhood education and similar fields for years
                   1998-2000 and the number of programs completed by students in those
                   areas of study for the same time period. While we took steps to determine
                   that the PIR data were sufficiently reliable for this report, we did not
                   independently verify the data provided by the grantees. We conducted our
                   work between February and September 2003 in accordance with generally
                   accepted government auditing standards. Appendix I provides more
                   details on our scope and methodology.


                   On the basis of ACF data, Head Start appeared to meet the 1998 mandate
Results in Brief   requiring at least 50 percent of Head Start teachers nationwide to have, at
                   a minimum, an associate degree by September 30, 2003, but it is not known
                   if all classrooms in Head Start centers had at least one teacher with at
                   least the minimum credentials required by statute. About 52 percent of
                   Head Start teachers nationwide had at least an associate degree in early
                   childhood education or a related field at the end of the 2002 program year,
                   according to grantee-reported data. This was an increase of more than
                   14 percentage points in teachers with degrees since 1999. All ACF regions
                   and the American Indian-Alaska Native and Migrant branch programs
                   made some progress increasing the percent of teachers with degrees over
                   the 1999-2002 period, although there was considerable variation among
                   regions and branches in the level of teachers with degrees in 2002. We
                   could not determine if each classroom had at least one teacher with the
                   credentials required by law because grantee-reported data did not
                   explicitly include this type of information. Although ACF requested
                   grantees to report both the number of teachers holding either degrees in
                   early childhood education or related fields, or CDA or equivalent
                   credentials, and the number of classrooms, it is not possible to determine
                   from these data if there was at least one teacher with at least minimum
                   credentials in each classroom. In addition, ACF did not ask grantees to
                   report specifically on this. Furthermore, although ACF monitors about
                   one-third of Head Start grantees each year, the monitoring instrument


                   Page 3                                                  GAO-04-5 Head Start
used did not have a separate question that asked whether each classroom
had at least one teacher with at least minimum credentials.

Head Start teachers’ salaries have increased since 1998, but some Head
Start grantees identified difficulties in competing for teachers with
degrees. Quality improvement funds enabled Head Start to increase
teacher salaries to levels comparable to other preschool teachers during
the 1999-2001 period, although they remained at about half of what
kindergarten teachers earned nationally. However, quality improvement
funds have declined sharply in recent years, when Head Start’s
appropriation grew more slowly than in the previous years. While all types
of grantees paid more to staff with higher qualifications, both the average
qualifications of teachers and the salaries paid them varied across types of
grantees, with teachers in Head Start programs administered by school
systems on average earning the highest salaries and having the highest
levels of education. Turnover was also lower at grantees administered by
school systems and government agencies than among the 78 percent of
Head Start teachers who worked at Head Start programs administered by
other types of agencies. Although nationally students completed 34,000
individual programs in early childhood education or related fields in the
1999-2000 school year, many grantees reported difficulties competing for
degreed graduates in these fields with existing salaries. Data were not
available on the number of students completing early childhood education
programs that actually worked as preschool teachers in Head Start or
similar programs.

Programs in early childhood education and 8 similar fields of study were
available in all states and in one in five postsecondary institutions included
in 1999-2000 Department of Education data. However, as expected, the
more rural, less populous states had few of these programs. Head Start
grantees used a number of methods to make early childhood education
and similar courses accessible to their teachers, such as offering on-site
classes. However, providing opportunities in rural areas sometimes was a
problem. Despite efforts to use distance education—education
characterized by the separation, in time or place, between instructor and
student—some Head Start teachers had to travel considerable distances to
attend classes.

Because ACF did not collect the necessary data to determine whether
each classroom in Head Start centers had at least one teacher with the
qualifications required by law, we are recommending that the Secretary of
HHS require that ACF, at least annually, collect data on whether there is at



Page 4                                                    GAO-04-5 Head Start
             least one teacher with at least the minimum required credentials in each
             classroom.


             Head Start began as an 8-week summer project administered by the former
Background   Office of Economic Opportunity in 1965. Designed to help break the cycle
             of poverty, Head Start provided preschool children of low-income families
             with comprehensive educational, social, health, nutritional, and
             psychological services. Head Start was originally aimed at 3 to 5 year olds.
             A companion program begun in 1994, Early Head Start, made these
             services available to children from birth to 3 years of age as well as to
             pregnant women.

             Head Start and Early Head Start programs are administered by ACF.
             Through its 10 regional offices and 2 branches—the American Indian-
             Alaska Native Branch and the Migrant Branch—ACF directly funds more
             than 1,500 grantees that provide Head Start program services either
             directly or through delegate agencies. Grantees include community action
             agencies, school systems, for-profit and nonprofit organizations, other
             government agencies, and tribal consortia. In fiscal year 2002, these
             grantees served more than 912,000 children, with about 850,000 in Head
             Start and 62,000 in Early Head Start. More than 90 percent of Head Start
             children are enrolled in center-based programs while most of the
             remaining children attend home-based programs.2 Head Start is funded
             primarily by federal grants, but grantees must provide at least 20 percent
             of the program funding, which can include in-kind contributions, such as
             facilities for holding classes. Program costs, which include teacher
             salaries, vary considerably since some grantees may receive donations,
             such as low-cost space. Grantees may also have widely varying costs of
             personnel and space depending on many factors, such as geographic
             location (urban or rural), and type of sponsoring agency (school system or
             private nonprofit). However, salaries generally comprise most of Head
             Start grantees’ budgets, and grantees’ teacher salary levels differ based on
             factors such as location and staff qualifications.

             Head Start classrooms are required to be staffed by a teacher and an
             assistant teacher or an aide, or by two teachers. In fiscal year 2002, Head


             2
              Center-based programs are those where services are provided to children primarily in
             classroom settings. Throughout this report, we refer to classrooms in center-based
             programs as “classrooms.” Head Start also has “home-based programs” that provide
             services in the private residences of children being served.




             Page 5                                                              GAO-04-5 Head Start
Start had more than 51,000 teachers and a similar number of assistant
teachers. At least one teacher in each classroom in Head Start centers
must have either: (1) an associate, baccalaureate (bachelor’s), or advanced
(graduate) degree in early childhood education; (2) such a degree in a
related field, with preschool teaching experience; (3) a CDA credential
appropriate to the age of children served in center-based programs; or
(4) a state certificate at least equivalent to a CDA. The CDA credential
requires a high school diploma or equivalent and, within the previous
5 years, 480 hours working with preschool children in a group setting and
120 hours of child care education. The CDA credential is awarded by the
Council for Professional Recognition of Washington D.C. Teachers with
CDA credentials are expected to be able to meet the specific needs of
children and work with parents and other adults to nurture children’s
physical, social, emotional, and intellectual growth in a child development
framework.

In addition to the minimum requirements for teacher qualifications, the
1998 Head Start Act required that 50 percent of Head Start teachers across
the nation have a minimum of an associate degree in early childhood
education or in a related field with preschool teaching experience by
September 30, 2003. Head Start reauthorization proposals have been
introduced that would require increased levels of teachers with associate
and bachelor’s degrees.

Some research indicates that preschool teachers with higher levels of
education are more effective at teaching young children. For example, the
National Institute for Early Education Research reported in March 2003
that the education levels of preschool teachers and specialized training in
early childhood education predict teaching quality and children’s learning
and development progress.3 In addition, the National Research Council
reported in 2000 that while any teacher education related to early
childhood development or education is better than none, teachers with
bachelor’s (or higher) degrees in early childhood development appear to
be most effective.4



3
 Barnett, W.S. (2003). Better Teachers, Better Preschools: Student Achievement Linked to
Teacher Qualifications. Preschool Policy Matter. 2. New Brunswick, NJ:NIEER.
4
National Research Council (2001) Eager to Learn: Educating Our Preschoolers.
Committee on Early Childhood Pedagogy. Barbara T. Bowman, M. Suzanne Donavan, and
M. Susan Burns, editors. Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education,
Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.




Page 6                                                             GAO-04-5 Head Start
The Head Start appropriation has increased from $4.66 billion in fiscal
year 1999, the first year of the current authorization, to about $6.67 billion
in fiscal year 2003. The Head Start Act provides that a portion of the
appropriation be committed to quality improvement if there is a real
increase (one exceeding the rate of inflation) over the previous year’s
appropriation. Grantees must use at least one-half of their quality
improvement funding to increase the salaries of classroom teachers and
other staff. The remaining funds are to be used for such activities as
training to improve staff qualifications. In the first 2 years of the current
authorization, fiscal years 1999-2000, ACF allocated part of the quality
improvement funds to address Congress’s emphasis on increasing the
number of teachers with degrees. Grantees were allocated $1,300 for each
teacher who did not have either a college degree in early childhood
education or a degree in a related field with a state certificate, and $300 for
each teacher with such a degree. According to ACF officials, each year’s
quality improvement funding was added to the next year’s base grant in
order to sustain the efforts supported by these funds, such as teacher
salary increases. ACF regional offices did not consistently document how
these funds were used, though they noted that they monitored changes in
staff qualifications.

Head Start funding provided grantees with two other sources of support
for improving teacher qualifications—quality improvement centers and
Head Start collaboration offices in each state. Quality improvement
centers, funded at about $41 million in fiscal year 2002, provided technical
assistance and training in support of various national initiatives, including
the improvement of teacher qualifications. There were 16 quality
improvement centers nationally, with at least 1 in each ACF region and
1 each for the Migrant and American Indian-Alaska Native programs, until
funding for quality improvement centers was terminated on August 31,
2003,and these centers ceased to operate. Head Start collaboration offices
in each state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Migrant and
American Indian-Alaska Native programs, promote coordination of Head
Start and state and local programs for young children and their families.
Some state collaboration offices received grants from ACF to develop and
enhance professional development opportunities. State collaboration
offices were funded at approximately $8 million in fiscal year 2003.

ACF monitors and oversees Head Start grantees. ACF collects data on
Head Start programs through the PIR, an annual survey of grantees. These
data include information on various aspects of grantees’ programs, such as
numbers of teachers with degrees in early childhood education. In
addition, to ensure that Head Start grantees comply with Head Start


Page 7                                                     GAO-04-5 Head Start
                             program performance standards governing teacher qualifications and
                             other matters, ACF’s regional offices and branches monitor each grantee
                             at least once every 3 years. ACF uses the Program Review Instrument for
                             Systems Monitoring (PRISM) to conduct these reviews.


                             Head Start appears to have met the 1998 mandate requiring at least
The Percent of               50 percent of Head Start teachers nationwide in classrooms in Head Start
Teachers with                centers to have degrees by September 30, 2003, based on grantee-reported
                             data, but it is not known if all classrooms in Head Start centers had at least
Degrees Has Risen            one teacher with at least minimum credentials. Fifty-two percent of Head
and Appears to Meet          Start teachers nationwide had at least an associate degree in early
                             childhood education or a related field at the end of the 2002 program year.
Legislated Goals for         All regions made some progress increasing the percent of teachers with
Progress, but It Is          degrees over the 1999-2002 period, although there was considerable
Unknown Whether              variation among regions in the level of teachers with degrees in 2002.
                             Although ACF requested grantees to report both the number of teachers
Each Classroom Has a         holding either degrees in early childhood education or related fields, or
Teacher with at Least        CDA or equivalent credentials, and the number of classrooms, ACF did not
                             ask grantees to report specifically if there was a teacher with minimum
Minimum Credentials          credentials in each classroom. Furthermore, although ACF monitors about
                             one-third of Head Start grantees each year, the monitoring instrument
                             used did not have a separate question that asked whether each classroom
                             had at least one teacher with at least minimum credentials.


Over 50 Percent of           According to grantee-reported data, almost 52 percent of Head Start
Teachers Nationwide          teachers nationwide had at least an associate degree in early childhood
Appear to Have at Least an   education or a related field by the end of program year 2002, thereby
                             meeting the requirement of the 1998 Head Start reauthorization.5 This was
Associate Degree             an increase of more than 14 percentage points in teachers with degrees
                             since 1999 (see fig. 1).




                             5
                                 Pub.L. No. 105-285, §115.




                             Page 8                                                    GAO-04-5 Head Start
     Figure 1: The Percentage of Teachers with Degrees Has Increased Significantly
     since 1999

     Percent of teachers with degrees
     60

                             a
                         51.7
     50



     40      37.3



     30



     20



     10



         0
             1999        2002
     Source: GAO analysis of ACF data. (These data are self-reported by grantees.)

     Note: Head Start data on the percent of teachers with degrees were collected somewhat differently in
     1998, limiting their comparability with data collected in subsequent years.
     a
      The percentage of teachers with degrees in 2002 includes 3.8 percent with graduate degrees,
     24.8 percent with bachelor’s degrees, and 23 percent with associate degrees. (Does not add to
     51.7 percent due to rounding.)


     In addition to the 52 percent of teachers with a degree in early childhood
     education or a related field in 2002, 34 percent of teachers had a CDA
     credential or its equivalent, and 4 percent more were in training for the
     CDA credential. An ACF official said that the distribution of the remaining
     10 percent of teachers was not known but included

•	   recently hired teachers without a degree or CDA credential who had not
     yet begun CDA training and

•	   teachers with degrees in fields other than early childhood education who
     had not completed sufficient early childhood education courses to qualify
     as having a related degree and who did not have a CDA and were not in
     CDA training.

     Grantee-reported data by region showed the progress toward higher
     teacher degree levels geographically and revealed areas where challenges
     remain. In 7 of 10 geographic regions, between 55 percent and 76 percent



     Page 9                                                                          GAO-04-5 Head Start
of teachers had a degree in early childhood education or a related field at
the end of the 2002 program year, the most recent year for which data
were available at the time we conducted our study (see fig. 2).

Figure 2: More Than 50 Percent of Teachers in 7 of 10 Regions Had Degrees as of
2002




                     R-X                                                                                R-I
                   55.1%                                                                               61.3%
                                                R-VIII                                          R-II
                                                                                R-V
                                                 59%                                           76.2%
                                                                            61.5%

                   R-IX
                   59.2%                                             R-VII
                                                                     46.9%
                                                                                                          R-III
                                                                                                         68.9%

                                                                                      R-IV
                                                          R-VI                        40.9%
                                                           40%




               Above 50%

               Below 50%



Source: GAO analysis of ACF data. (These data are self-reported by grantees.)



Region II, including New York, New Jersey, and Puerto Rico,6 had the
highest level of degree attainment—76 percent. The 3 regions that did not
reach 50 percent were in the South and Midwest. The attainment levels for
these regions ranged from 40 percent in Region VI (Arkansas, Louisiana,
New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas) to about 47 percent in Region VII (Iowa,
Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska). To some extent, the distribution of teachers
with degrees among the regions reflected the educational attainment of


6
    Region II also includes the Virgin Islands, which we excluded from our study.




Page 10                                                                                       GAO-04-5 Head Start
the general population in each region. For example, Department of
Education data in 2001 showed a higher percentage of adults with
bachelor’s degrees in the northeastern states. Furthermore, a National
Center for Education Statistics study for school year 2000-2001 showed
that over 92 percent of preschool teachers in public schools in the
Northeast and Central United States had a minimum of a bachelor’s
degree, compared with their counterparts in the West and the Southeast,
with 84 percent and 79 percent, respectively.7

The American Indian-Alaska Native and the Migrant branch programs had
substantially lower levels of teachers with degrees as of program year
2002—27 percent and 21 percent, respectively. ACF officials attributed the
low levels of teachers with degrees in the American Indian-Alaska Native
program to the fact that many of these grantees are in remote locations
without access to early childhood education degree programs and the
lower likelihood that persons in these areas had completed college
education. ACF migrant program officials said that the program’s limited
increase reflected difficulties in hiring bilingual teachers with degrees in
rural areas because the programs are of limited duration and migrant
families move frequently; in addition, they cited a need to provide basic
English courses for many teachers before they can begin a degree
program.

All regions and branches made progress in increasing the numbers of
teachers with degrees between 1999 and 2002. Regions experienced an
average improvement of about 14 percentage points (see fig. 3).




7
 U.S. Department of Education, National center for Education Statistics. Prekindergarten
in U.S. Public Schools: 2000-2001, NCES 2003-019, by Timothy Smith, Anne Kleiner,
Basmat Parsad, and Elizabeth Farris. Project Officer; Bernard Greene. Washington, D.C.:
2003




Page 11                                                            GAO-04-5 Head Start
Figure 3: All Regions and Branches Increased Percent of Teachers with Degrees from 1999 to 2002

Percent of teachers with degrees
90

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50

40

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                                                                                Increase in teachers with degrees by 2002

                                                                                Percent of teachers with degrees 1999

Source: GAO analysis of ACF data. (These data are self-reported by grantees.)

                                                                  The region showing the greatest increase by far was Region II, with an
                                                                  increase of 29 percentage points, about twice the average of the other
                                                                  regions. Region II officials attributed this increase primarily to a large
                                                                  number of teachers in Puerto Rico who already held college degrees and
                                                                  who then completed the necessary early childhood education courses
                                                                  when funding became available. Four of the 7 regions that had less than
                                                                  50 percent degreed teachers in program year 1999 had surpassed
                                                                  50 percent by program year 2002. The remaining 3 regions still had less
                                                                  than 50 percent teachers with degrees by program year 2002, but
                                                                  nevertheless made significant progress in increasing the number of
                                                                  teachers with degrees between program years 1999 and 2002, with
                                                                  increases ranging from 12 to 17 percentage points. In addition, the
                                                                  American Indian-Alaska Native branch program increased by more than
                                                                  7 percentage points and the Migrant branch program by more than
                                                                  2 percentage points, although the percent of teachers with degrees for
                                                                  both branches remains far under 50 percent.




                                                                  Page 12                                                                         GAO-04-5 Head Start
It is Not Known Whether   Head Start did not collect data from grantees that allowed determination
Each Classroom in Head    of whether each classroom in Head Start centers had a teacher with at
Start Centers Has a       least minimum credentials. For the PIR, ACF requested grantees to report
                          data on teacher qualifications, including each grantee’s total number of
Teacher with at Least     teachers and the numbers of teachers holding degrees in early childhood
Minimum Credentials       education or a related field, or CDA or equivalent credentials, across all
                          sites administered by each grantee. ACF also requested that grantees
                          report the number of classrooms included in their programs.8 However,
                          ACF’s PIR data collection instrument did not ask grantees if there was a
                          teacher with at least minimum credentials in each classroom, and it is not
                          possible to ascertain this from the collected data. For example, in program
                          year 2002 the PIR reported just over 46,000 teachers with degrees, CDA or
                          equivalent credentials, or in CDA training, and almost 47,000 classrooms,
                          but it did not indicate how many classrooms were not staffed by a teacher
                          with at least minimum credentials. Some classrooms could have been
                          staffed with two teachers meeting statutory requirements, rather than a
                          teacher and an assistant teacher. In turn, other classrooms could have
                          been staffed by teachers without the required qualifications. As a result,
                          the number of classrooms without a teacher with at least minimum
                          credentials may be greater than the difference between the number of
                          classrooms and the number of teachers with degrees, CDA or equivalent
                          credentials, or in CDA training. ACF officials acknowledged that it is likely
                          that some classrooms are not staffed by teachers with at least the required
                          minimum credentials.

                          ACF monitors each Head Start grantee at least once every 3 years through
                          PRISM reviews, but the monitoring instrument does not have a separate
                          question that asks whether there is a teacher with at least minimum
                          credentials in every classroom. These reviews include analysis of grantee
                          compliance based on the Head Start program performance standards,
                          including the standard for teacher qualifications. However, this
                          performance standard is broad in scope and does not specifically address
                          whether there is a teacher with at least minimum credentials in each
                          classroom. The standard provides that “Head Start programs must comply
                          with section 648A of the Head Start Act and any subsequent amendments
                          regarding the qualifications of classroom teachers.”9 This section of the


                          8
                           The PIR defines the term “classroom” as physical space and “class” as a group of children
                          under the direction of one or more teachers. However, here, and throughout this report, we
                          use the term “classroom” to refer to such a group of children.
                          9
                              This requirement is set forth in 45 C.F.R. §1306.21.




                          Page 13                                                             GAO-04-5 Head Start
Head Start Act includes the requirements that each classroom in a center-
based program have a teacher who has demonstrated certain specified
competencies, such as supporting the social and emotional development
of children, and that each classroom have a teacher with a minimum of an
associate degree in early childhood education, or in a related field with
preschool teaching experience, or a CDA or a comparable state credential.
As a result, it is not clear whether findings of noncompliance during
PRISM reviews are related to issues with teacher competencies or teacher
degree and certification qualifications. Furthermore, according to an ACF
official, PRISM data are reported at the national level by grantee and are
not centrally available by classroom. For example, PRISM review data
show that in 2002 about 4 percent of the 559 grantees reviewed had
findings of noncompliance regarding teacher qualifications, but the
number of classrooms without a teacher with minimum credentials was
not reported or requested. Grantees with findings together had about
507 classrooms. About 2 to 3 percent of grantees had such findings in each
of the previous 2 years (see table 1).

Table 1: Findings of Noncompliance Related to Teacher Qualifications Over a
3-Year Review Cycle

                            Number of grantees    Number of    Percent of grantees
                               with findings of    grantees        with findings of
 Year of review                noncompliance       reviewed        noncompliance
 2000                                       18          554                     3.2
 2001                                       10          591                     1.7
 2002                                       23          559                     4.0
Source: GAO analysis of ACF data.


Furthermore, because ACF only evaluates approximately one-third of the
grantees each year, there is no way of knowing annually how many
grantees are not meeting the teacher qualifications standard and,
therefore, may have classrooms without teachers with at least minimum
credentials.




Page 14                                                       GAO-04-5 Head Start
                                Quality improvement funds enabled Head Start to increase teacher salaries
Head Start Teacher              to levels comparable to other preschool teachers during the 1999-2001
Salaries Have                   period. However, some grantees still reported difficulties competing for
                                teachers with degrees. Quality improvement funds have declined steeply in
Increased to Levels             recent years, when Head Start’s appropriation grew more slowly than in
Comparable to those             earlier years. The level of Head Start teacher salaries varied by level of
                                credential and type of grantee administering the program. Teachers in
of Preschool                    Head Start programs administered by school systems on average had a
Teachers, but Some              higher level of education and earned higher salaries than those in
Grantees Reported               programs administered by other types of agencies. Average turnover was
                                lower at grantees administered by school systems and government
Difficulties                    agencies, than among the 78 percent of Head Start teachers who worked at
Competing for                   Head Start programs administered by other types of agencies. While
                                nationally students completed 34,000 individual programs in early
Teachers with                   childhood education or related fields in the 1999-2000 school year, many
Degrees                         grantees reported difficulties competing for degreed graduates in these
                                fields with existing salaries. Data were not available on the portion of
                                students completing early childhood education programs who either work
                                as preschool teachers in Head Start or similar programs or were hired by
                                such programs.


Head Start Programs Have        Increasing Head Start teacher salaries and benefits was a key element in
Made Teacher Salaries           attracting and retaining teachers with degrees, according to ACF regional
More Competitive since          officials and Head Start grantees. For example:
1999, but Salaries Varied • 	   The director of a public school grantee in the state of Washington said that
by Type of Grantee and          adequate teacher salary levels were a great factor in attracting and
Level of Education              retaining qualified, degreed teachers.

                           •	   The director of a Head Start program in Maryland said that the primary
                                method of effectively reducing turnover has been to raise salaries.

                                Quality improvement funds enabled Head Start grantees to increase
                                teacher salaries to levels comparable to other preschool teachers during
                                the 1999-2001 period, although salaries remained at about half of what
                                kindergarten teachers earned nationally, as shown in table 2. For example,
                                a Head Start program director in Missouri said that the program had used
                                quality improvement funds to increase staff salaries above the level of
                                childcare workers to a level comparable to the local and national levels for
                                preschool staff, although not to the higher level paid by school districts.




                                Page 15                                                  GAO-04-5 Head Start
Table 2: Head Start Teachers’ Annual Salaries Have Increased to the Level of Other
Preschool Teachers’ Annual Salaries

    In nominal dollars
                                                                                                            Percentage
                         a
    Type of teacher                        Salary 1998                      Salary 2001                         change
    Kindergarten                                 $35,450                          $41,100                              15.9
    Preschool                                    $19,530                          $20,940                               7.2
    Head Start                                   $17,956                          $20,793                              15.8
Source: BLS estimates and GAO analysis of ACF data self-reported by grantees.
a
 BLS included preschool teachers who instruct children (normally up to 5 years of age) in activities
designed to promote social, physical, and intellectual growth needed for primary school in preschool,
day care center, or other child development facilities. Child care workers are excluded from this
category. Special education teachers are excluded from both preschool teachers and kindergarten
teachers.


The quality improvement funding peaked at $356 million in fiscal year 2001
and then dropped sharply in the following 2 years when Head Start’s
appropriations grew more slowly. Quality improvement funding allowed
Head Start to make real increases (those that exceed cost of living
allowance increases) in teachers’ salaries in fiscal years 1998 to 2001.
However, the steep decline in quality improvement funding in fiscal years
2002 and 2003, as shown in table 3, greatly reduced Head Start grantees’
ability to make further real increases in salaries in those years. As an
example, the chief executive officer of a community action agency grantee
in Dallas said that since quality improvement funds have been reduced, the
program could no longer make progress in closing the salary gap between
Head Start and school district teachers.

Table 3: Quality Improvement Funding and Head Start Appropriations, Fiscal Years
1999-2003

    Dollars in millions
                                                    Quality improvement                                     Head Start
    Fiscal year                                                  funding                                  appropriation
    1999                                                                        $148                                 $4,660
    2000                                                                        $244                                 $5,267
    2001                                                                        $356                                 $6,200
    2002                                                                         $80                                 $6,538
    2003                                                                         $32                                 $6,668
Source: Appropriations—P.L. 105-277, P.L. 106-113, P.L. 106-554, P.L. 107-116, P.L. 108-7. Quality Improvement Funding—annual
ACF Program Instruction Guidance that covered quality improvement funding.




Page 16                                                                                         GAO-04-5 Head Start
The increase in Head Start teacher’s salaries in the 1998-2001 period was
widespread, with salaries rising by at least 11 percent in each of the
regions and branches and nearly 16 percent nationwide, as shown in table
4. Consumer prices as measured by the Consumer Price Index—All Urban
Consumers increased 8.65 percent over this period.

Table 4: Head Start Teacher Salaries Increased Significantly in All Regions and
Branches, 1998-2001

    In nominal dollars
                                                 1998 average                    2001 average           Percent
    Region                                      teacher salary                  teacher salary          change
    I                                                     $17,924                     $21,623             20.64
    II                                                    $19,335                     $22,658             17.19
    III                                                   $20,798                     $24,161             16.17
    IV                                                    $15,793                     $18,518             17.25
    V                                                     $18,809                     $21,984             16.88
    VI                                                    $16,702                     $18,893             13.12
                                                                                                                  a
    VII                                                   $15,603                     $19,899             27.53
    VIII                                                  $16,791                     $19,835             18.13
    IX                                                    $21,981                     $24,988             13.68
    X                                                     $18,376                     $21,704             18.11
    American Indian-Alaska
    Native branch                                         $16,104                     $18,284             13.54
    Migrant branch                                        $14,635                     $16,313             11.47
    Nationwide                                            $17,956                     $20,793             15.80
Source: GAO analysis of ACF data. (These data are self-reported by grantees.)
a
 According to regional officials, the significantly higher increase in average teacher salaries in Region
VII is attributable to efforts to improve professional development, such as emphasizing wage
incentive programs for teachers to increase their educational levels. These efforts included
partnership agreements that attracted state funding, thus allowing grantees to devote the majority of
quality improvement funding to teacher salary increases. They also drew upon other sources of
funding, such as an Early Learning Opportunities Act grant, which were used for salary increases.


On average, the 13 percent of Head Start teachers employed at programs
administered by school systems earned higher salaries, had a higher level
of education, and had a lower turnover rate than other Head Start
teachers. For example, teachers with bachelor’s degrees in Head Start
programs administered by school systems earned, on average, over
$31,000 in 2002 while similarly educated teachers in other Head Start
programs earned, on average, between about $21,000 and $26,000 as
shown in table 5.




Page 17                                                                                     GAO-04-5 Head Start
Table 5: Head Start Teacher Salaries Were Generally Higher at Programs Administered by Schools in 2002

                                                                                                         Average salary                                        Average
                                                                                                           with CDA or                                    annual salary
                                                            Average salary Average salary Average salary     equivalent                                     of teachers
                                                 Percent of with graduate with bachelor’s with associate           state                                          with a
                                                                                                                                                                        a
 Agency type                                      teachers         degree         degree         degree      certificate                                     credential
 Public/private school                                        13               $41,459              $31,368             $24,106              $18,964               $28,177
 system
 Public/private nonprofit                                     39               $34,023              $25,576             $22,335              $19,526               $22,482
 Community                                                    36               $27,059              $23,778             $20,918              $18,420               $20,641
 action agency
 Government agencyb                                             9              $25,300            $21,831c              $21,327              $19,081               $20,996
 Public/private for-profit                                     1               $22,180              $22,178             $20,182              $18,461               $20,028
 Tribal government or                                           2              $20,893              $22,807             $20,208              $19,193               $19,766
 consortium
 Nationwide total                                           100                $35,472              $25,547             $21,797              $18,976                   NA
Source: GAO analysis of ACF data (These data are self-reported by grantees.)
                                                                 a
                                                                     Credential includes a graduate, bachelor’s, or associate degree or a CDA or its equivalent.
                                                                 b
                                                                 Government agencies are those that are administered by governments, such as some cities and
                                                                 municipalities, but are not community action agencies.
                                                                 c
                                                                  Puerto Rico accounts for about 58 percent of the government agency Head Start teachers with
                                                                 bachelor’s degrees. Salaries for such teachers in Puerto Rico were about $19,000 per year, causing
                                                                 the overall level of salaries of government agency teachers with bachelor’s degrees to be the lowest
                                                                 of any agency type for similarly credentialed teachers. Region II officials noted that the poor job
                                                                 market in Puerto Rico resulted in teachers with bachelor’s degrees willing to accept lower pay.


                                                                 Head Start teachers with a credentials earned just over $28,000 in
                                                                 programs administered by school systems compared with less than
                                                                 $23,000 in programs administered by other agencies.

                                                                 About one-half of all Head Start teachers employed by programs
                                                                 administered by public and private school systems had a bachelor’s or
                                                                 graduate degree in 2002. At Head Start programs administered by most
                                                                 other types of agencies, the percentage of the teachers that had a
                                                                 bachelor’s or graduate degree ranged from about 7 percent for tribal
                                                                 governments or consortiums to nearly 39 percent for governmental
                                                                 agencies. One reason that school system programs have more teachers
                                                                 with a bachelor’s degree or higher is that a minimum of a bachelor’s
                                                                 degree is often a requirement for being hired as a Head Start teacher in
                                                                 these settings. For example:




                                                                 Page 18                                                                         GAO-04-5 Head Start
                                                            •	   The director of a public school Head Start program in Virginia said that the
                                                                 program only hired teachers with at least a bachelor’s degree and a state
                                                                 teaching license.

                                                            •	   The Head Start director of an Education Service Center in Texas said that
                                                                 its Head Start grant was received in partnership with 19 school districts
                                                                 and it required that all Head Start teachers have at least a bachelor’s
                                                                 degree and be state-certified.

                                                            •	   A representative of a District of Columbia public school system Head Start
                                                                 program said that all of the program teachers had at least a bachelor’s
                                                                 degree and those whose degrees were not in early childhood education
                                                                 were working to be certified in that area.

                                                                 The difference by agency type in the portion of teachers with graduate
                                                                 degrees was especially pronounced, with more than 13 percent of teachers
                                                                 employed by school systems having such degrees compared with about 1
                                                                 to 3 percent of teachers at Head Start programs administered by other
                                                                 types of agencies (see table 6).

Table 6: Head Start Teacher Degree Levels Were Higher at Programs Administered by Schools in 2002

                                                                     Percent of teachers at each agency type by level of education
                                                                                                                                        CDA or
                                                                                                                                     equivalent           Percent of
                                           Percent of                  Graduate            Bachelor’s            Associate                 state       teachers with
                                                                                                                                                                     a
 Agency type                              all teachers                   degree               degree               degree            certificate        a credential
 Public/private school
 system                                                 13                      13.5               36.4                 19.1                23.7                 92.7
 Public/private nonprofit                               39                       3.1               23.0                 22.3                34.9                 83.3
 Community action
 agency                                                 36                       1.7               21.4                 25.4                38.4                 86.9
                               b
 Government agency                                        9                      2.8               36.0                 22.0                25.8                 86.6
 Public/private for-profit                                1                      1.9               21.5                 29.5                35.1                 88.0
 Tribal government or
 consortium                                               2                      1.1                6.3                 19.4                50.6                 77.4
 Nationwide total                                     100                        3.8               24.8                 23.0                34.3                 85.9
Source: GAO analysis of ACF data. (These data are self-reported by grantees.)
                                                                 a
                                                                  Credential includes a graduate, bachelor’s, or associate degree, or a CDA credential or its
                                                                 equivalent.
                                                                 b
                                                                 Government agencies are those that are administered by governments, such as some cities and
                                                                 municipalities, but are not community action agencies.




                                                                 Page 19                                                                      GAO-04-5 Head Start
Average turnover was lower at grantees administered by public and
private school systems and government agencies than among the
78 percent of Head Start teachers who worked at Head Start programs
administered by other types of agencies. The average turnover rate at
Head Start programs administered by school systems was about
10 percent and that of teachers in government agencies was about
11 percent in 2002, somewhat lower than the rate in programs
administered by other types of agencies, as shown in figure 4.

Figure 4: Head Start Teacher Turnover Rate Was Lowest at Programs Administered
by Schools in 2002

Percent
25
                                                                      23.4



20
                                                         17.4
                                             15.7
                                 14.8                                           15.1
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Source: GAO analysis of ACF data. (These data are self-reported by grantees.)



Among all Head Start teachers leaving during the 2002 program year,
30 percent left for higher compensation in the same field, 24 percent left
for a change in job field, and the remaining 46 percent left for various
other reasons, based on grantee data provided for the PIR.




Page 20                                                                                GAO-04-5 Head Start
Some Head Start Grantees                            Nationally, students completed about 34,700 individual programs of study
Reported Difficulties                               in early childhood education and similar fields of study, but some Head
Competing for Graduates                             Start grantees identified difficulties competing for graduates with degrees
                                                    in these fields. In both the 1997-1998 and the 1999-2000 school years,
with Degrees in Early                               students completed about 34,700 programs of study in early childhood
Childhood Education                                 education and similar fields of study.10 However, the number of programs
Fields                                              completed in the 1999-2000 school year at the associate and graduate
                                                    levels increased nearly 7 percent and 2 percent, respectively, from 2 years
                                                    earlier. The completion of programs at the bachelor level declined slightly
                                                    during the same period, as shown in table 7.

Table 7: Number of Individual Program Completions, by Level, in Early Childhood Education and Eight Similar Fields for the
1997-98 and 1999-2000 School Years

 School year                            Associate                 Bachelor                  Graduate                       Othera                      Total
 1997-1998                                  6,865                    13,225                       3,484                    11,135                    34,709
 1999-2000                                  7,332                    13,078                       3,543                    10,755                    34,708
 Percent change                             6.8%                     -1.11%                      1.69%                    -3.41%                            0
Source: U.S. Department of Education.
                                                    a
                                                     “Other” includes programs that are: less than 1 year, at least 1 but less than 2 years, or at least 2 but
                                                    less than 4 years in length.


                                                    The three states with the most individual programs completed in early
                                                    childhood education and similar fields had large populations while the
                                                    reverse was true for the three states with the fewest programs completed.
                                                    The states with the greatest number of programs completed by students
                                                    were: California—5,892, Florida—2,706, and Pennsylvania—2,109.

                                                    The states with the smallest number of programs completed by students
                                                    were: Wyoming—17, Alaska—23, and Hawaii—27. These are among the
                                                    least populous and, in the case of Alaska and Wyoming, among the more
                                                    rural states.

                                                    Data were not available on the number of students completing early
                                                    childhood education programs who either worked as preschool teachers
                                                    in Head Start or similar programs or were hired by such programs.
                                                    However, there is competition for graduates with bachelor’s degrees. For



                                                    10
                                                     The number of programs completed may be greater than the number of students
                                                    completing programs because some students may complete more than one program in a
                                                    given year, according to a Department of Education official.




                                                    Page 21                                                                         GAO-04-5 Head Start
     example, several Head Start grantees administered by nonprofit or
     community action agencies informed us that the salary they paid for
     teachers with a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education was too
     low to attract new teachers with early childhood education and related
     degrees and that even teachers who earn a bachelor’s degree while
     working in Head Start often accepted much higher paying jobs at a public
     school district upon graduation. The director of a community action
     agency in Georgia said that hiring degreed teachers was a problem
     because the agency’s salaries were not competitive with the public
     schools’ pre-kindergarten programs, which the director estimated were
     about 10 percent higher than Head Start teacher salaries. Also, the director
     of a government agency Head Start program in Texas said that it was more
     difficult to hire teachers with degrees in rural areas because salaries are
     lower, and recently graduated teachers like the greater availability of
     social activities in an urban area.

     Several grantees we contacted that were not school systems said that a
     key cause of turnover was teachers who had earned a college degree
     leaving to work for a higher salary, and in some cases better benefits, at a
     school system. Even teachers who had earned an associate degree often
     went to work at a school system as assistant teachers for higher salaries or
     better benefits than they would receive as a teacher in a Head Start
     program not affiliated with a school system. For example:

•	   An officer of a Texas Head Start program said that teachers hired with an
     associate or bachelor’s degree often left after a year for a higher salary
     offered by a school district and that this was the main reason for turnover.
     She said that although the program had increased teachers’ salaries to
     levels well above those of day care centers and above those of most other
     pre-kindergarten teachers and increased teachers’ fringe benefits to be
     competitive with those of school districts, the program’s teacher salaries
     were still not competitive with those paid to teachers by school districts.

•	   The director of a Maryland Head Start program said the causes of teacher
     turnover included moving to the public schools after degree completion
     for more attractive salary and benefits (including “signing bonuses”
     offered by the public schools). The director said that the program’s
     primary method of reducing turnover was raising teacher salaries.

     Several nonschool district Head Start grantees told us that annual salaries
     for teachers with bachelor’s degrees at Head Start programs administered
     by school systems were considerably higher than the annual salaries they
     paid. For example:



     Page 22                                                  GAO-04-5 Head Start
                            •	   An officer of a community action agency grantee in Dallas said that
                                 starting annual pay for Head Start teachers with a bachelor’s degree was
                                 $26,000, compared with $36,000 paid by the Dallas Independent School
                                 District. In addition, while the agency’s benefit package was competitive
                                 with the school district’s, the public school teachers got the summer and
                                 Christmas and spring breaks off while the Head Start program operated
                                 year round.

                            •    A manager of a nonprofit grantee in New Jersey said that school districts
                                 paid new teachers, just out of college, with a bachelor’s degree about
                                 $5,000 a year more, and certified teachers as much as $15,000 a year more,
                                 than the Head Start program could offer. The manager said that it was
                                 difficult to retain teachers who acquire a bachelor’s degree and
                                 certification because those are the requirements for teaching in the public
                                 schools. The manager also said that teachers are getting degrees and
                                 moving on because Head Start salaries cannot compete with salaries or
                                 the 10-month work year offered in the public schools.


                                 Our analysis of completion data for early childhood education and similar
Early Childhood                  programs shows that such programs were available in all states and at one
Education Programs               in five postsecondary institutions included in the 1999-2000 IPEDS
                                 database. Nevertheless, as expected, the more rural, less populous states
Were Available in All            had few of these programs. Head Start grantees used a number of methods
States and Grantees              to make early childhood education and similar courses accessible to their
                                 teachers, such as offering on-site classes. However, providing
Have Worked to                   opportunities in rural areas sometimes remained a problem. As a result,
Improve Access to                some Head Start teachers had to travel considerable distances to attend
Them, but Access Is              classes.

Still a Problem in
Some Rural Areas

Programs in Early                Early childhood education and similar programs were available to Head
Childhood Education or           Start teachers in all states. Our analysis of data from the Department of
Similar Fields of Study          Education’s IPEDS shows that in the 1999-2000 school year, students
                                 completed programs in early childhood education and eight similar fields
Exist in Every State, but        of study at 1,352 U.S. postsecondary institutions across all states. These
Some Rural States Have           programs include graduate, bachelor, and associate degree programs and
Few                              other programs, such as those less than 1-year. This was an 11 percent
                                 increase from 1,215 postsecondary institutions 2 years earlier, as shown in



                                 Page 23                                                  GAO-04-5 Head Start
                                          table 8. Every state had students complete either bachelor’s or associate
                                          degree programs or both.

Table 8: Number of Postsecondary Institutions with Students Completing Programs in Early Childhood Education and Eight
Similar Fields for the 1997-98 and 1999-2000 School Years

                                                   Postsecondary                   Postsecondary
                                        institutions with students      institutions with students
                                           completing program in           completing program in                Number             Percentage
 Program of study                             1997-98 school year          1999-2000 school year                change                 change
 Pre-elementary/early childhood                                  428                                506                78                     18
 /kindergarten teacher education
 Individual and family development                               102                                107                 5                       5
 studies, general
 Family life and relations studies                                 28                                30                 2                       7
 Child growth, care, and development                               64                                82                18                     28
 studies
 Individual and family development                                 12                                16                 4                     33
 studies, other
 Child care and guidance workers and                             407                                441                34                       8
 managers, general
 Child care provider/assistant                                   242                                275                33                     14
 Childcare services manager                                      121                                139                18                     15
 Child care and guidance workers and                               24                                26                 2                       8
 managers, other
 Totala                                                        1,215                             1,352               137                      11
Source: U.S. Department of Education.
                                          a
                                           Total figures differ from a total of the figures in each column because a single school can be counted
                                          9 times if it has students completing programs in all nine of the fields of study.


                                          The 1,352 postsecondary institutions were spread across all 50 states, the
                                          District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico. California, the most
                                          populous state, had the largest number of these institutions (128), while
                                          there were fewer than 5 of these institutions in 4 of the least populous
                                          states (Alaska, Hawaii, Rhode Island, and Wyoming), 2 of which (Alaska
                                          and Wyoming) are among the most rural states.

Grantees Used a Variety of                Grantees used a wide variety of approaches to increase access to early
Approaches to Increase                    childhood education programs for Head Start teachers seeking to earn
Access to Early Childhood                 degrees, and many Head Start staff were enrolled in such programs.
                                          Although early childhood education and similar programs were available
Education Programs                        to Head Start teachers in all states, ACF regional officials and some Head
                                          Start grantees said that providing educational opportunities in rural areas




                                          Page 24                                                                       GAO-04-5 Head Start
     sometimes remained a problem and that some teachers had to travel
     considerable distances to attend early childhood education courses.

     ACF regional office officials and grantees noted that efforts to work with
     community colleges to provide early childhood education courses during
     or after the school day at Head Start centers or other easily accessible
     locations were effective in making these courses available to Head Start
     teachers. In fact, grantees reported that nearly 45 percent of teachers
     without degrees were enrolled in such training, ranging from 35 percent in
     Region II (New York, New Jersey, and Puerto Rico),11 to 51 percent in
     Region IX (Arizona, California, Hawaii, and Nevada.)12 Grantees also
     provided funding and time off to facilitate teachers’ completion of degrees.
     For example:

•	   In Region VII (Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska), the director of a
     Missouri community action agency Head Start program reported that the
     agency developed partnerships with community colleges to provide:
     (1) on-site courses that were held at the agency’s central office as well as
     at several Head Start Centers and partner sites and (2) field-based CDA
     courses offering 15 hours of college credit. For college courses, the
     program paid any tuition costs not covered by financial aid and 50 percent
     of book fees.

•	   In Region VI (Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas),
     ACF officials said that policies grantees implemented to encourage staff to
     increase their education level included: (1) paying or reimbursing staff for
     tuition, books, and testing; (2) allowing staff to attend some classes during
     the work day; (3) hiring qualified substitutes to allow teachers the time for
     classes; and (4) assisting staff to apply for Pell Grants and other financial
     aid.

•	   In Region III (Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia,
     and the District of Columbia), the director of a community action agency
     Head Start program in Delaware said that getting a college degree through
     Head Start had been the opportunity of a lifetime for many of the
     program’s teachers. The agency has partnership agreements with
     Delaware State University and Delaware Technical College for college


     11
          Region II also includes the Virgin Islands, which we excluded from our study.
     12
       Region IX also includes American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana
     Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Guam, Marshall Islands, and Republic of Palau,
     which we excluded from our study.




     Page 25                                                                 GAO-04-5 Head Start
     classes. The agency pays for tuition, books, mileage, and child care and
     provides substitute teachers when release time is needed. For example,
     since most college classes are held at night, teachers are given release
     time to prepare for class and take care of family needs.

     Although programs in early childhood education and similar fields of study
     were available in all states, such courses were often unavailable or
     difficult to access in rural areas, according to some ACF regional officials
     and grantees we contacted. For example, ACF officials said:

•	   In some rural areas in Region V (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota,
     Ohio, and Wisconsin), which often included smaller grantees, there were
     few colleges and some lacked early childhood education programs. But,
     ACF officials said the number of schools offering an early childhood
     education degree had increased recently with the help of the Head Start
     quality improvement centers.

•	   In Region VI (Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas),
     more than one-half of Head Start teachers were located in rural areas,
     making improving teacher qualifications particularly difficult. Few Head
     Start programs had partnerships with colleges and, for many Head start
     teachers, classes were difficult to attend due to long distances. For
     example, in New Mexico some teachers had to travel 2.5 hours to attend
     class.

     Grantees have had some success in addressing the difficulty in accessing
     courses in early childhood education in rural areas using distance
     education—education characterized by the separation, in time or place,
     between instructor and student. For example, according to ACF officials:

•	   In Region II (New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands),
     availability of early childhood education programs was no longer a
     problem except in some rural areas in upstate New York where distance
     education had helped to provide courses.

•	   In Region I (Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode
     Island, and Vermont), there were many institutions of higher education,
     and availability was generally not a problem even in rural areas. However,
     officials said that distance learning was used in Maine, the region’s most
     rural state, but only as a last resort because many teachers prefer
     interaction with others when learning.

     Officials noted that distance learning has advantages and disadvantages.
     Although some grantees said that teachers like the flexibility offered by


     Page 26                                                  GAO-04-5 Head Start
     courses taken over the Internet, some officials noted disadvantages such
     as the lack of opportunity to interact with other teachers and the lack of
     appropriate computer skills. For example:

•	   In Region VIII (Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah,
     and Wyoming), the director of a school system Head Start program in
     Montana said that most of the staff preferred distance learning to courses
     taken at the local college because they could set their own time schedule,
     take up to 6 months to complete each class, set up a time and place to take
     tests, and select a tutor. Staff members took each class with at least one
     other staff person to have someone with whom to discuss ideas. The
     director said the disadvantages of distance learning courses included a
     lack of instructors or classmates with whom to interact, the need for
     students to have up-to-date computers, and a wait for the delivery of class
     materials.

•	   In Region IX (Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, American Samoa,
     Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Federated States of
     Micronesia, Guam, Marshall Islands, and Republic of Palau), the director
     of a private, nonprofit Head Start grantee in California said that on-line
     courses are convenient and allow for scheduling flexibility. She said that a
     large number of staff reside in other counties and, given work and
     commuting schedules, have no time to attend college, so Internet
     coursework addresses these staff members’ needs. The director said the
     agency sponsors and conducts some Internet coursework and gives
     employees access to the agency’s training center computers to take
     courses on the Internet. However, while Internet instruction is effective
     for some teachers, the director said that most teachers need and enjoy
     interaction with other people while learning.

•	   In Region VII (Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska), the director of a
     community action agency Head Start program in Missouri, which operates
     in a rural area with little access to colleges courses, said that HeadsUP! (a
     course provided via satellite to classrooms) had been successful because it
     had a community college instructor available to facilitate the course. The
     director said that the advantages of distance education were: (1) it can be
     scheduled when convenient for the employee, (2) employees can work at
     their own pace, (3) it provides access to courses not otherwise available to
     staff, and (4) it can be successful if the employee is highly motivated and
     independent. She said the disadvantages of distance learning include that:
     (1) it is easy to fall behind, (2) it is more expensive, and (3) most staff need
     face-to-face interaction with instructors.




     Page 27                                                     GAO-04-5 Head Start
                    •   Another director of a Head Start Program in Missouri (part of Region VII )
                        said that in the 10-county area it served, early childhood education
                        programs for teachers seeking degrees were available only in one city,
                        consequently, teachers in rural areas did not have easy access to
                        programs. The director said that, while one teacher had completed an
                        associate degree using distance learning and two other staff were
                        presently piloting the use of another distance learning program, there had
                        been little overall success with distance learning because: (1) many
                        education programs have a component that requires the student to be on-
                        campus at scheduled times, (2) courses require a certain level of computer
                        skills, and (3) the courses are expensive.

                        Head Start appears to have met the requirements of the 1998 mandate for
Conclusions             teacher qualifications by increasing the number of teachers with at least
                        an associate degree in early childhood education or a related field to
                        52 percent in 2002. However, the number of classrooms in Head Start
                        centers that did not have at least one teacher with at least minimum
                        credentials was not known because ACF does not require that grantees
                        specifically report such data in their annual PIR.

                        Head Start grantees and ACF regional officials we contacted said the
                        quality improvement funds used to pay for teacher training and to increase
                        the level of teacher salaries were the key to success in increasing the
                        numbers of teachers with degrees. In addition, the agreements worked out
                        with colleges to provide easily accessible early childhood education
                        courses were seen as a factor in increasing the number of teachers with
                        degrees.

                        Head Start reauthorization proposals have been introduced that would
                        require increased levels of teachers with associate and bachelor’s degrees.
                        Because salaries comprise most of Head Start grantees’ budgets, and
                        grantees’ teacher salary levels differ based on staff qualifications, it is
                        likely that proposals to enhance teachers’ qualifications will require
                        consideration of the implications for the Head Start program.

                        We recommend that the Secretary of HHS require that ACF, at least
Recommendation          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.


                        We provided a draft of this report to the Departments of Health and
Agency Comments 	       Human Services and Education for their review and comment. In its



                        Page 28                                                  GAO-04-5 Head Start
written response, included as appendix II of this report, ACF concurred
with our recommendation. In addition, ACF provide technical comments,
which we incorporated where appropriate. Education officials reviewed
the draft and said that they support the recommendation and had no
comments.


We are sending copies of this report to the Secretary of HHS; Assistant
Secretary for Children and Families; Associate Commissioner, Head Start
Bureau; appropriate congressional committees; and other interested
parties. In addition, the report will be available at no charge on GAO’s Web
site at http://www.gao.gov. Please call me at (202) 512-7215 if you or your
staff have any questions about this report. Key contacts and staff
acknowledgments for this report are listed in appendix II.




Marnie S. Shaul
Director, Education, Workforce
 and Income Security Issues




Page 29                                                  GAO-04-5 Head Start
Appendix I: Scope and Methodology 



              This appendix discusses in more detail the scope and methodology for
              assessing the extent to which: (1) Head Start has met legislative mandates
              concerning teacher qualifications; (2) Head Start teacher salaries have
              increased and enabled grantees to attract and retain teachers with
              degrees; and (3) degree and other programs in early childhood education
              are available for Head Start teachers and grantees have taken steps to
              enhance access to them.

              In order to determine the percent of Head Start teachers who have at least
              an associate degree in early childhood education or a related field, we
              analyzed Program Information Report (PIR) data on center-based Head
              Start and Early Head Start programs, including the American Indian-
              Alaska Native and Migrant programs, in the 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the
              District of Columbia, for program years 1998–2002. These data sources are
              an annual survey of all grantees regarding various aspects of their
              programs. We reviewed and performed electronic testing of the data for
              obvious errors in completeness and accuracy and found some
              inconsistencies in the way teacher qualifications were reported. We also
              reviewed a U. S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of
              Inspector General draft report on the status of efforts to improve the
              qualifications of Head Start teachers as of program year 2001. This report
              noted similar problems with the data. However, we determined the PIR
              data elements we used were sufficiently reliable for this report. Most of
              our references to portions of Head Start teachers with degrees or CDAs
              and to teacher salary levels are based on our analyses of these data. Given
              the timeframes of our review, we could not verify these data with grantees,
              but have appropriately annotated the data used in our findings. We
              calculated the percent of teachers with degrees based on the largest
              number of total teachers reported in the PIR, rather than on the total
              number of teachers reported by educational level, since a non-exhaustive
              set of reporting categories was used for this question. In addition, to
              confirm the reasonableness of these data, we reviewed 1998 and 2000 data
              relating to teacher qualifications from another source—ACF’s Family and
              Child Experiences Survey. We reviewed these data in order to estimate the
              percentage of Head Start children instructed by teachers with various
              levels of education. We also reviewed Head Start laws and regulations
              addressing requirements for teacher qualifications.

              In order to address whether there is at least one teacher in each classroom
              in Head Start centers with a degree, a CDA credential, or a state certificate
              at least equivalent to a CDA, we reviewed the PIR survey and related data.
              We further reviewed Head Start Program Performance Standards and
              results of Program Review Instrument for Systems Monitoring (PRISM)


              Page 30                                                   GAO-04-5 Head Start
Appendix I: Scope and Methodology




reviews for fiscal years 2000-2002. We also reviewed Head Start laws and
regulations addressing requirements for a teacher with minimum
credentials in each classroom.

To assess the importance of the competitiveness of teachers’ salaries in
grantees’ ability to attract and retain teachers with degrees and the extent
to which degree programs in early childhood education are available for
Head Start teachers without degrees, we interviewed officials in
10 regional offices and the American Indian-Alaska Native and Migrant
Branches. We also interviewed officials from the Head Start Bureau and
contacted officials of 30 grantees. We selected grantees in each region to
obtain perspective on both those that had been successful in achieving a
high proportion of teachers with degrees and those that were having
difficulty doing so. We visited 11 of these grantees in three states—
Delaware, Maryland, and Texas—and in the District of Columbia. These
grantees were in 2 ACF regions—Region III (Delaware, Maryland,
Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia) and
Region VI (Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas).

We also compared salaries of Head Start teachers taken from ACF’s PIR
data with those of preschool and kindergarten teachers reported by the
Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for 1998 and 2001.1 The results of this
comparison were consistent with interview responses on the
competitiveness of Head Start teachers’ salaries with other preschool
teacher salaries. It is important to note that PIR reported by grantees
included the average Head Start full-time teacher salaries earned annually,
regardless of the number of months worked during the year. Salaries
reported by BLS for preschool and kindergarten teachers were estimated
average annual wages, based on employer responses to a BLS survey. BLS
does not distinguish between full- and part-time workers and assumes that
all work 2,080 hours annually (which is a 40 hour work week for 1 year).
However, BLS tracks salaries of child care workers in a separate category.
On the basis of our review of the methodology used to develop the BLS
information, we determined that the data were sufficiently reliable for this
report. In addition, we reviewed Head Start Bureau program guidance on
quality improvement funds.


1
 BLS included preschool teachers who instruct children (normally up to 5 years of age) in
activities designed to promote socials, physical, and intellectual growth needed for primary
school in preschool, day care center, or other child development facilities. Child care
workers are excluded from this category. Special education teachers are excluded from
both preschool teachers and kindergarten teachers.




Page 31                                                              GAO-04-5 Head Start
Appendix I: Scope and Methodology




In addressing the extent to which degree programs in early childhood
education are available for Head Start teachers without degrees, we also
analyzed Department of Education data from the Integrated
Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) to determine the number
of schools with students completing programs in early childhood
education and eight similar fields for 1997-98 and 1999-2000 school years.
We also identified the number of schools with completing students in each
of four categories (graduate, bachelor, associate, and other-such as those
less than 1-year) in each state for this time period. In addition, we
identified numbers of completed programs by students in these areas of
study for these years. ACF defines a degree related to early childhood
education as a program of study which includes six or more courses in
early childhood education and/or child development. We identified a list of
eight fields of study similar to early childhood education that had been
used to prepare a 2001 journal article on early childhood teacher
preparation at institutions of higher education.2 The eight fields of study
include (1) Individual and Family Development Studies, General;
(2) Family Life and Relations Studies; (3) Child Growth, Care and
Development Studies; (4) Individual and Family Development Studies,
Other; (5) Child Care and Guidance Workers and Managers, General;
(6) Child Care Provider/Assistant; (7) Childcare Services Manager; and
(8) Child Care and Guidance Workers and Managers, Other. Our review of
all fields of study confirmed that this list represents such programs. This
list is similar to lists of degree programs related to early childhood
education provided by ACF in the past. An elementary education degree or
a degree in any one of a number of fields of study with a certification,
specialization, endorsement, or state license for pre-school, early
childhood, or pre-kindergarten could qualify as a degree related to early
childhood education if the program of study includes six or more courses
in early childhood education and/or Child Development. However,
definitive information on the number of degree programs or students
meeting this criterion is not available.



2
 Diane M. Early, Pamela J. Winton, “Preparing the workforce: early childhood teacher
preparation at 2- and 4-year institutions of higher education,” Early Childhood Research
Quarterly 16, pp. 285-306, 2001.




Page 32                                                              GAO-04-5 Head Start
Appendix II: Comments from the Department
of Health and Human Services




             Page 33              GAO-04-5 Head Start
Appendix II: Comments from the Department
of Health and Human Services




Page 34                                     GAO-04-5 Head Start
Appendix III: GAO Contacts and Staff
Acknowledgments

                  Betty Ward-Zukerman, (202) 512-2732, wardzukermanb@gao.gov
GAO Contacts      Julianne Hartman Cutts, (206) 287-4803, cuttsj@gao.gov


                  The following people also made key contributions to this report:
Staff             Chuck Novak, Matt Coco, Molly Laster, Grant Mallie, Robert Miller, and
Acknowledgments   Corinna Nicolaou.




(130231)
                  Page 35                                                GAO-04-5 Head Start
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