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Leading by Exemplar: Instructional Models in Head Start Programs

Ashley LiBetti

Title image for Bellwether publication "Leading by Exemplar Instructional Models in Head Start Programs," March 2019Leading by Exemplar: Instructional Models in Head Start Programs provides in-depth information about the instructional models 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 demonstrate evidence of 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 were 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.

Among our findings was that a program’s instructional model is a key driver in its performance. An instructional model integrates the content of what teachers teach (curriculum), a clear perspective on what good teaching looks like (instructional practice), and measurement of children’s learning and progress (assessment). Programs with effective instructional models also provide the tools, resources, and professional development to support teachers and programs to implement that approach consistently and effectively in their classrooms. Leading by Exemplars: Instructional Models in Head Start Programs highlights the unique elements of these exemplar programs’ instructional models; what they have learned from developing and implementing those models; and implications for other early childhood programs, policy, and the broader field.

Additional information about the Leading by Exemplar project, including methodology, lessons for the field, and other analysis, is available here. Detailed case studies of each exemplary program as well as a brief synthesizing the programs’ data utilization practices are also available.

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