Giving Compass' Take:

• A new study published in the American Educational Research Journal revealed that many Head Start programs varied in classroom-level quality. 

• What are the ways school administrators can strengthen these programs? What are some of the underlying causes for the varying degrees of program quality, and how does this impact funding?

• Read about why Head Start is essential in many rural towns. 

Federal and state early-childhood education accountability systems randomly assess the quality of Head Start within a sample of classrooms to inform decisions about which centers should have their funding renewed. But this method might be leading to inaccurate conclusions about which centers are meeting standards, according to a new study published in the American Educational Research Journal.

Led by Terri J. Sabol of Northwestern University, the study finds that classroom-level quality — such as class size, child-adult ratio, teacher education level and the instructional support provided to children — can vary significantly and that funding decisions for 37% of the centers in their sample would have been different if more classrooms had been assessed.

The findings, they add, also have implications for school administrators. “Although it is important to select a high-quality school, our results suggest that it’s also important — if not more important — to find high-quality teachers within schools,” they write.

The “results suggest that, especially, as students’ school experiences become more divided across teachers, paying special attention to maintaining consistent, supportive relationships across these settings is critical to students’ development and learning,” they write.

Read the full article about quality of Head Start programs varies by Linda Jacobson at Education Dive.