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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Funding for NMSU Head Start helps improve program

New Mexico State University's early childhood education faculty are striving to improve the quality and long-term effectiveness of the local Head Start services to children and their families with the help of a renewed Administration for Children and Families Head Start grant.

nt supports the Proyecto Avanzar (PA) project, which plans to increase the number of local Head Start teachers with degrees in early childhood education by providing access to the New Mexico Early Care and Education Career Lattice. The lattice is a system for professional growth and development through course completion and degree attainment.

"This is a wonderful opportunity for Head Start programs and our early childhood faculty to be partners and encourage Head Start staff to continue their education," said Nancy Baptiste, a college associate professor in the NMSU College of Education.

The project offers career advising, prior learning assessments, research and evaluation of the Head Start staff progress, and information about numeracy, literacy, second language learning and professional development.

Baptiste is teaming up with Luis Huerta, assistant professor in early childhood and bilingual education, and Loui Reyes, an assistant professor in early childhood education. They are currently working with four Head Start programs in the Las Cruces area.

Baptiste said a common problem among the staff of local Head Start programs is a lack of higher education.

"Research has shown that those who have bachelor's degrees provide a better learning environment for young children," Baptiste said. "This program will help those teachers receive the training they need to make sure their students succeed."

The program also will help teachers with higher education degrees look at coursework for their students and prepare them to work better with children in the Head Start programs. Staff will be provided with WebCT, time management and writing skills workshops, dictionaries, lap tops and books to establish a library.

"We want to offer something to the community by better educating prospective teachers," Huerta said. "Teachers can observe, practice with the kids and learn 'best practices.'"

The NMSU Children's Village also will see the benefits of the grant, with its Head Start programs receiving support. The village is a pre-school program that serves NMSU students and their families. It also serves as a laboratory for NMSU students who are interested in gaining more experience in the field of early childhood education, and for faculty research.

"The Children's Village is a multi-dimensional space for teachers working to improve the quality of programs for children and services for families," Baptiste said.

For more information about the grant or the Children's Village, call (505) 646-2632.