In 2001, the Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, began a two-year initiative to review existing information, collect new data, and explore research needs for American Indian-Alaska Native Head Start programs. The goal of the project was to develop research responsive to the needs of American Indian-Alaska Native Head Start programs-research that takes into account (1) the unique cultural environments and values of these populations and (2) provides information that programs can use to improve services provided to children and families.
The Head Start Bureau provided funding directly to Tribes. Currently, 153 grantees in 27 states serve over 25,000 American Indian and Alaska Native children. To date, American Indian and Alaska Native children have not always been the direct beneficiaries of knowledge that has been gained through research. Very little evidence has been systematically gathered from Head Start programs that serve American Indian and Alaska Native children, often because the population is small and has not been included in major Head Start research projects.
To begin addressing this absence of research, this project synthesized existing information, collected data through site visits to and interviews with staff from American Indian and Alaska Native Head Start programs, and consulted with experts in early childhood education for American Indians and Alaska Natives. The project addressed the following questions:
- What are the research needs of American Indian and Alaskan Native programs?
- What issues should be considered in conducting research in American Indian and Alaska Native Head Start programs?
- How can the Administration for Children and Families support partnerships among researchers and American Indian-Alaska Native Head Start programs?
- To what extent are the instruments, measures, and procedures currently used to assess child outcomes culturally appropriate?
- What technical assistance would be helpful for program staff in terms of conducting developmental screenings and assessing child outcomes?
- How can the Head Start monitoring process be strengthened to provide the most benefit to Head Start programs serving American Indians and Alaska Natives?
The project resulted in several reports that together provided a framework to further a research agenda that meets the needs of American Indian-Alaska Native Head Start Programs. The following reports are available on this website.
Inventory of Screening and Assessment Tools: An inventory that lists the processes or tools each AI/AN Head Start grantee currently uses for (1) screening children and (2) assessing their progress through the program.
Research Synthesis: To identify knowledge about serving American Indian and Alaska Native children, a synthesis of extant research was prepared that incorporated both published and unpublished literature. Topics addressed in the synthesis included learning styles of American Indian and Alaska Native children, components of their educational experiences (language acquisition, curriculum development, parent involvement, and teacher training), the use of assessment to determine children's progress, and research methods.