May 18, 2005
NCLR REPORT HIGHLIGHTS NEED FOR IMPROVEMENTS TO THE HEAD START PROGRAM FOR HISPANIC CHILDREN
Washington, DC - Today, the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the largest national Latino civil rights and advocacy organization in the U.S., released a white paper entitled Head Start Reauthorization: Promoting School Readiness for Hispanic Children. Head Start is the federal program that provides low-income children with a high-quality early education. The report found that while Head Start is a widely successful program overall, it can be improved to better meet the needs of Hispanic children who represent a large share (34%) of the eligible Head Start child population.
"One of the most successful education programs ever created, Head Start has a long history of preparing children for the first day of school. It is critically important that Congress make Head Start more accessible to Latino families and more effective in addressing the school readiness needs of Latino children," said Janet Murguia, NCLR President and CEO.
Head Start Reauthorization points out that the number of children enrolled in Head Start who do not speak English as their first language has grown dramatically in the last decade, particularly in southeastern and midwestern states. Approximately 28% of Head Start children have limited English proficiency (LEP), with the vast majority of these children identified as Spanish-speakers. Further, the report noted that these children and their families face language differences that serve as barriers to meaningful participation in the broad array of Head Start education and family services.
In its report, NCLR provides recommendations for ways to strengthen the program and calls on Congress to address program improvements for Hispanic children in the pending renewal of the Head Start Act. "For Head Start to remain a model program for early education, it must be responsive to the needs of our nation's increasingly diverse families. Increasing the number of well-trained bilingual teachers who can implement research-based instructional strategies in the classroom and support parents as their children's first teacher is a good first step," noted Murguia.
"Latinos believe that education is the key to the American dream and a better future. There is perhaps no greater federal program that can help Latinos succeed in school and in life than Head Start. I urge Congress to make strengthening Head Start for Latinos a priority in this reauthorization," concluded Murguia.
The report can be downloaded free of charge on NCLR's website at www.nclr.org.