Iowa Embraces Change to Help Children Transform

A Model for Improving Early Child Care

Educational development for early childhood services has increased over the years. At the helm of this progress is Head Start, a federal to local program that supports the social, emotional, and mental development of low-income children.

Head Start relies on states to support the formulation and implementation of policies and procedures to enhance services.

“Head Start has historically been a model for what early childhood services should look like,” says Tom Rendon, the Head Start Collaboration Office Coordinator for Iowa, “So, I’ve continued to identify innovations, projects, and initiatives that Head Start offers and try to make sure they exist strongly in Iowa.”

As part of that initiative, Rendon recognized a need for positive behavior support for early childhood classrooms. According to a 2005 Yale study, pre-kindergarten children were three times more likely to be expelled than K-12 students. 

“The more children that are in childcare and the more ravages of poverty that come down on those children, the more challenging behaviors we see in the classroom.”

Innovation, Meet Implementation

The Iowa Head Start Collaboration Office (HSCCO), which serves low-income families in 98 out of 99 counties in the state, agreed to pilot the statewide implementation of the Pyramid Model.

The Pyramid Model is a positive behavioral intervention and support framework for the early childhood workforce. It is not a packaged curriculum, but rather an evidence-based, tiered approach that provides individualized assessment-based behavior support plans for infants and toddlers.

The purpose of the state planning initiative is to implement and sustain a professional development system, resulting in a workforce that can effectively promote the high fidelity use of the Pyramid Model.

This process includes:

  • Enhancing the knowledge and skills of staff
  • Supporting the implementation and sustainability of evidence-based practices
  • Increasing the size of a workforce who are skilled in supporting the social-emotional development of young children

Iowa worked with the Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations of Early Learning (CSEFEL) for three years to develop a statewide leadership team and select demonstration sites.

Choosing Growth

CSEFEL, now called The Pyramid Model Consortium, also assisted in developing the following critical elements in Iowa:

  • Administrative support and buy-in
  • Staff buy-in
  • Family participation
  • Identification of program-wide expectations that are developmentally appropriate
  • Curriculum that promotes expectations
  • Strategies for responding to problem behavior
  • Team based, individualized approach for ongoing problem behavior
  • Professional development plan
  • Strategies for supporting teachers
  • Process for measuring outcome

“Working with the Pyramid Model has shaped the way I think of implementation…If you want a solution, there is one, but it will be harder to implement than anything you’ve ever done because it will so radically change the way you do things.”