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Leading by Exemplar: Case Studies of Head Start Programs

Ashley LiBetti

Leading by Exemplar: Case Studies of Head Start Programs is an in-depth analysis of five high-performing Head Start programs from across the country. The programs highlighted in this analysis — referred to throughout as Head Start exemplars — were selected because they demonstrate significant positive impacts on children’s learning.

This publication is part of the Leading by Exemplar project, a multi-year study conducted by Bellwether Education Partners. In this project, every aspect of the Head Start exemplars’ program design and practice was closely examined in an effort to understand each program’s “secret sauce.” Leading by Exemplar has three goals: to identify Head Start programs that are producing powerful results for children, elevate them as proof points of what is possible for the field, and inform policy and other efforts to improve early learning outcomes.

Leading by Exemplars: Case Studies of Head Start Programs lays out tactical, detailed information about the five broad components of each of the Head Start exemplars: curriculum, assessment, and instruction; meeting the needs of all children; ensuring high-quality teaching; family engagement; and data utilization.

Understanding the practices of these programs — not only what they are, but how they are implemented — will benefit all early childhood providers, who want to adopt these practices into their own programs. This research also offers invaluable lessons for policymakers and the field at large for creating an environment that improves the quality of all programs and allows high performers to thrive.  

Additional information about the Leading by Exemplar project, including methodology, lessons for the field, and other analyses, is available here. Briefs synthesizing the programs’ instructional models and data utilization practices are also available.

Download the full report here or read it in the viewer below.