Editor’s Note: This is the fifth in a series of articles featuring the people and programs of Cardinal Services in their 60th anniversary year.
There are some who argue that Head Start does not make a difference, that by 4th grade, a Head Start child is on a par with their classmates and there is no difference after that point – to which Cardinal Services says – Yes, that’s the goal! Head Start exists so that children whose parents can’t afford private preschool don’t enter kindergarten behind the other children and remain there throughout their education, career and lifetime.  
Head Start/Early Head Start gets children off to a strong beginning so that throughout their life, they can achieve alongside their peers, despite financial and other at-risk circumstances into which they were born. School readiness is crucial in forecasting how well a child will progress, not only in kindergarten, but for years to come. Therefore, Kosciusko County Head Start focuses on 7 goals in 5 domains to measure school readiness:
•    Cognitive / General Knowledge
•    Language and Literacy (3 Goals)
•    Approaches to Learning
•    Physical Development
•    Social and Emotional Development
Today as the Head Start children prepare for their End of Year Celebration, they show advancement over this school year in all 7 goals. The most recent evaluation covered the winter semester, Nov 13-Feb 14.  In 6 of the goals, children showed a 6-11 percent increase in their understanding over those 4 months.  In the 7th goal, the Cognitive / General Knowledge domain, children achieved an increased understanding of 18 percent.
This goal includes mathematic skills such as classifying, comparing and measuring, counting and numeral recognition, patterning, and shape recognition. A Language and Literacy goal was the next highest, with 100 percent meeting the age appropriate goal of writing their own name.
Extending the school day from 3-½ to 6 hours this year has had a positive impact. Teachers are able to plan more in-depth lessons, including daily phonics and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) activities. Morning Message, shared writing, and Big Book reading have also been added as important daily lessons for language and literacy development. All these activities more closely mirror what children will experience when they go to kindergarten.
Next fall, 75 Kosciusko County Head Start children will begin kindergarten in schools through-out the county. Thanks to Head Start, they will walk into their classrooms ready and able to learn.
Head Start is currently taking applications for the 2014-15 school year. For more information about the Kosciusko County Head Start / Early Head Start programs of Cardinal Services, please visit www.cardinalservices.org or call Head Start at 574-267-2451.
In the next installment on programs which come under the Cardinal Services umbrella, we will learn about Healthy Families of Kosciusko County.