GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Head Start programs across the country must meet tougher federal standards in order to receive funding. The Harrison County Head Start Program is taking steps to boost teacher performance. It has hired a company that specializes in training teachers.
This week, the teachers are in class, getting a refresher course on syllable blending. They are also learning new techniques to help young readers who come from low-income backgrounds.
"It's fun. I do believe that there's always room to grow and there's always room to learn," said Head Start teacher Michelle Hutson.
This is the first time that the Gulf Coast Community Action Agency has hired a professional development company to train its 70 Head Start teachers. The reason has to do with stricter classroom assessment standards. Head Start programs that score below a 2.5 on a six-point scale in certain categories would have to re-apply for federal grant funding.
"The component that is most important for us is the instructional and that is our lowest point. We scored a 2.7 this year and I felt that in order for teachers to be expected to do what is needed in the classroom, that we needed to give them some support," said GCCAA Executive Director Dr. Barbara Coatney.
That's where Generation Ready comes in. The Jackson company is sharing strategies to boost literacy skills, along with lessons in classroom management.
"It's very important for us to get this information up front so we could share it with our children, so we can be motivated when the children come into the classroom," said Head Start Lead Mentor Coach Violet Easter Thompson.
And with Common Core in place in Mississippi schools this year, Harrison County Head Start teachers will play a greater role in preparing more than 1,300 preschoolers for kindergarten.
"Everything is moved up, so teachers have to be prepared. We need our parents on board. It's go time," said Hutson.
"I was wondering how they were going to accept the training and they're just all excited, so that's been great," said Coatney.
Along with the group training sessions, the company will also spend 47-days in the classroom working one-on-one with the teachers at eight Head Start centers. Head Start classes in Harrison County begin September 8th.