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Cleaner Classrooms and Rising Scores: With Tighter Oversight, Head Start Shows Gains

Category: Political News,Politics

In Jacksonville, only two groups bid to replace the Urban League, and some community leaders grumbled when the annual grant, now nearly $18 million, went to Lutheran Services, a nonprofit based in Tampa, 200 miles away.

Lutheran Services has suffered its own mishaps, including two episodes of teachers spanking children, a violation of program rules. Both teachers were fired, and problems appear to have waned.

But Lutheran’s CLASS scores are up across all three areas of classroom performance. It offers scholarships for teachers returning to school. (Thirty-four of its 35 lead teachers now have bachelor’s degrees, up from about two-thirds four years ago.) And LaTanya Wynn-Hall, the program’s director, was selected by the state Head Start association as the 2018 administrator of the year.

Working with another nonprofit, the Children’s Home Society of Florida, Lutheran now offers a home visit program to parents of infants and toddlers. Among them is Dana McClenny, 25, who did not want her daughter in center-based care before she could speak, but welcomes weekly visits from a teacher, Audrey Rose.

On a recent morning, Ms. McClenny’s 20-month-old daughter, Nalani, sat on the floor as both women watched her pull stuffed animals from a container. “Oop-pee,” she said.

“That’s right — ‘open,’” Ms. Rose said.

As a single mother with her first child, Ms. McClenny said, “I didn’t know what I was doing.” Ms. Rose encouraged her to read aloud and to overcome her fear of taking Nalani outside.

The two women laughed about another tip. Ms. McClenny was afraid to let Nalani play with a baby doll, for fear it might encourage her to become a teenage mother. But Ms. Rose assured her that doll play would promote caring, not childbearing.

“Once she explained it that way, I looked at it from a different perspective,” Ms. McClenny said. “I let her play with it now.”


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