Iheoma Iruka, Ph.D.
Research Professor & Director The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
The Ideal Learning Head Start Network aims to facilitate the integration of ideal learning approaches into Head Start, ensuring that children from low-income communities can access innovative, holistic, and high-quality early learning experiences.
Access to Head Start funding plays a critical role in helping quality early learning providers reach children in underserved communities. However, for many ideal learning programs—which may use innovative program structures, curricula, and evaluation models—navigating the requirements of Head Start can be daunting. Likewise, existing Head Start providers that use conventional approaches but would like to implement ideal learning models may be dissuaded from adopting a new approach by real or perceived barriers.
The Network is a group of ideal learning providers who receive Head Start funds, either directly as grantees or indirectly as partners, and who have come together as a community of practice to provide resources, guidance, and support for programs that bridge ideal learning and Head Start. Members include providers implementing Montessori, Reggio Emilia-inspired, HighScope, and Tools of the Mind approaches. The group hosts a library of resources for providers to help with implementation of Head Start rules and requirements, and advocates on behalf of changes to the federal program that will make the program more accessible to child-centered, early learning models. For example, network partners submitted public comments supporting proposed changes to the Head Start Designation Renewal System that would make the process of recompetition more fair and transparent.
An overview of the purpose and scope of the Ideal Learning Head Start Network.
If you are a current Head Start provider using an ideal learning-aligned early childhood approach, or if you would like to be, please reach out!