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Most Early Head Start Teachers Have the Required Credentials But Challenges Exist

Overall, 81 percent of Early Head Start teachers had the required credentials that met or exceeded a child development associate (CDA) credential. In addition, more than half of teachers without the required credentials were pursuing them. Approximately one-third of Early Head Start programs employed only teachers with the required credentials.

In 2007, Congress reauthorized the Head Start Act and created the first law governing the credentialing and training of center-based Early Head Start teachers. The Head Start Act requires that by September 30, 2010, all center-based Early Head Start teachers have a minimum of a CDA and have been trained (or have equivalent coursework) in early childhood development. It also requires that all Early Head Start teachers have training (or have completed equivalent coursework) in early childhood development with a focus on infant and toddler development by September 30, 2012.

Early Head Start provides comprehensive services to low-income pregnant mothers and infants and toddlers from birth to age 3. Federal funding for Early Head Start dramatically increased in 2009. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 gave ACF an additional $1.1 billion to expand Early Head Start services. In comparison, Early Head Start's original fiscal year 2009 budget was $710 million. In the 2009-2010 program year, ACF served more than 100,000 infants and toddlers through almost 1,000 Early Head Start grantees.

Although approximately two-thirds of programs did not employ only teachers with the required credentials, more than half of the teachers employed by 89 percent of programs had the required credentials. In addition, nearly all Early Head Start programs reported requiring teachers to complete training. However, programs reported challenges to employing only teachers with the required credentials and to training teachers. Eighty-three percent of programs reported that they could not find teachers with credentials. Further, programs most commonly reported finding substitutes and managing work schedules as challenges to providing training. Other challenges to training teachers appeared to be more prevalent in rural areas.

We recommend that ACF (1) work with Early Head Start programs to ensure that all teachers have the required credentials and (2) provide guidance to programs about training teachers.

ACF concurred with all of our recommendations. ACF described ongoing initiatives to increase the number of Early Head Start teachers with credentials and examples of training opportunities.