A Case Study of the Implementation of a Head Start Program Into A Public School System
Hall, Kelly Murray
MCLaughlin, Margaret J.
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ABSTRACT Title of dissertation: A CASE STUDY OF THE IMPLEMENTATION OF A HEAD START PROGRAM INTO A PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM Kelly Murray Hall, Doctor of Education, 2017 Dissertation directed by: Dr. Margaret J. McLaughlin College of Education Head Start is a federally funded program that has been in existence since 1965. Recently there have been changes to the federal program as a part of reform efforts. The reform efforts include a competitive grant process and a strong desire for established organizations to become grantees in the hope of improving educational outcomes for young children from impoverished backgrounds. The challenges of program and new initiative implementation in school systems have been studied for many years. Much has been written about implementing change in schools and school systems, using federal funds in particular, and the impact of those changes on existing school structures. More recent approaches to implementation of reforms have looked to implementation science as the model. Dean Fixsen and his colleagues at the National Implementation Research Network have identified common elements in successful implementation that apply to any human service. The purpose of this study was to examine the technical and social factors of the implementation process for the federally funded $11 million Head Start grant in a school system. Fixsen’s implementation framework and qualitative case study methodology were used. The following question guided my case study: To what extent does the implementation of the Head Start program in the school system reflect the Fixsen model and to what extent has it been influenced by each of the Fixsen drivers: organization, competency, and leadership? The data for the study were obtained through a review of the original grant application and annual reapplication documents, analysis of a series of Health and Human Services program monitoring reviews, and interviews with Head Start teachers. The data were organized using the Fixsen implementation framework for comparison and analysis. This school system’s implementation followed the Fixsen model. There was evidence of all of the phases and drivers in its implementation. The successes the school system experienced can be attributed to the thoughtful consideration to components identified in the phases and drivers. The challenges the school system faced also can be directly linked to deficits or oversights with the drivers as well as inadequate time and attention to detail throughout the various phases.