Since 1991, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) has supported the development of partnerships between Head Start programs and their local research community through the Head Start Graduate Student Research Grants. These awards attract applications from leading researchers and their graduate students specializing in social sciences, education, health, or other relevant disciplines. In close collaboration with their Head Start and Early Head Start program partners, these researchers design high-quality projects that directly address the needs of low-income children and families and their early childhood educators. The results inform and improve Head Start policies and practice.
This funding mechanism also builds research capacity. The grants foster the mentor-student relationship between leading researchers and their graduate students, enhancing the quality of the current work and building the skills of the graduate student. Within this supportive relationship, student researchers learn both theory and the hands-on features of conducting applied research within community service organizations. The researchers often contribute directly to their local Head Start and Early Head Start partner programs (e.g., providing trainings, establishing databases, identifying key resources, and pursuing research that addresses questions of interest to programs), and many continue to make significant contributions to the early childhood and Head Start research fields throughout their careers. To learn about previously funded Head Start Research Scholars projects, please visit: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/opre/research/project/ head-start-graduate-student-research-program.
B. Goals of the Head Start Graduate Student Research Grants
The goals of the Head Start Graduate Student Research Grants are to:
- complete high-quality research projects that address current concerns of Head Start and Early Head Start programs and policymakers;
- provide support for advanced graduate students whose dissertation research focuses on Head Start and/or Early Head Start populations, thus building knowledge about effective services, practices, and policies for diverse, low-income families and their children;
- promote mentor-student relationships that a) support students' independent line of research; b) provide project supervision from qualified, experienced researchers in the field; and c) further students' graduate training and professional development in policy-relevant, applied research;
- foster working research partnerships between academic researchers and Head Start and Early Head Start programs, thereby increasing a) the programs' understanding and use of current research information, and b) the quality and relevance of the funded research work to Head Start and Early Head Start communities;
- support active communication, networking, and collaboration among the cohort of graduate students, their mentors, and other prominent researchers in the field, both during the graduate students' training as well as into the early stages of their research careers.
Given these goals, topics of current interest for this announcement include (but are not limited to):
transition from Head Start to kindergarten or from Early Head Start to Head Start. For example, the impact of transition on teachers, parents, and children; program, child, and family features predictive of transition resiliency; continued family engagement in new learning settings, and/or alignment of curricula);
evidence-based teaching practices for supporting the development of infants and toddlers. This includes research that will highlight practices that can be used in group settings to intentionally support and build upon children's skills and development. For example, research of interest might examine how to support effective curriculum implementation with infants and toddlers; how to build effective teacher-child interactions with this age group; and/or how to help teachers in supporting children's learning and development in an intentional and focused way;
- how Head Start and Early Head Start programs use data, including:
(a) how teachers understand and use information about children's development to support individualized practices. For example, research might examine teachers' understanding of developmental trajectories in key areas of school readiness; how to assess children's development, and how to use information about children's current developmental needs and strengths to move them along a developmental continuum;
(b) how family services staff, managers, and directors make use of family wellbeing and family engagement data to inform individual practice with families and to measure program wide progress toward goals related to family wellbeing and family engagement;
(c) how grantees make use of data at the organizational level to enhance program planning. For example, a project could examine how programs use community assessment and family assessment information in conjunction with other sources of data to target and tailor their services, and/or how programs link child outcome data to other sources of information to better understand and contextualize information about children's school readiness.
- cost of quality (e.g., cost per child; cost effectiveness)
- integrated approaches that pair intensive and intentional supports for adult outcomes with effective approaches for supporting children's school readiness (e.g., two-generation, dual-generation, or whole family approaches). For example, a study may examine different approaches to supporting adult employment or educational outcomes, adult financial capability, and adult language and literacy skills, or Head Start or Early Head Start implementation of a parenting curriculum or intervention;
- the experiences and influence of parent participation in governance and policy council. For example, researchers could gather information on the relationship between parent participation in governance and its associations with transitions to kindergarten and/or child outcomes;
- Head Start or Early Head Start partnerships with child care or other child/family programs. For example, research that can help identify strengths and challenges of such partnerships, potential approaches to creating such partnerships, or how/whether partnerships support improvements in the quality of services or ability of Head Start/Early Head Start to meet child and/or family needs;
- improving Head Start and Early Head Start programs, policies, and practices with populations, such as:
(a) American Indian/Alaskan Native children and families;
(b) migrant/seasonal families and their children;
(c) children with disabilities and their families;
(d) families in contact with the child welfare system, including abused and/or neglected children;
(e) foster children;
(f) children raised by family members other than their biological parents (e.g., grandparents);
(g) homeless children.
- family engagement, specifically research that looks at:
(a) links to child outcomes. For example, models of family engagement and direct, moderator, or mediator impacts on children's learning, approaches to learning, and development;
(b) assessment. For example, development and validation of measure(s) of parent, family and community engagement framework family outcomes;
(c) the impact of different family support program designs and their effects on family and child outcomes;
(d) program features that most strongly predict family engagement for programs serving and engaging families facing adversity and/or program features that affirm the traditions of different cultural groups in programs/communities).
For additional information, see the Office of Head Start’s Parent, Family and Community Engagement framework: https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/school-readiness/article/pfce-interactive-framework.
- exposure to Head Start or Early Head Start. For example, research examining the impact of program structure, program duration, instructional time, summer learning loss, or attendance on child outcomes;
- dual language learners, including children in native language revitalization programs. For example, the development of valid assessments for infant/toddler dual language learners; validation of preschool dual language learner assessments, and/or strategies for improving quality of services for dual language learners;
- professional development of program staff. For example, identifying effective and efficient means of training staff working with families to successfully engage and assist these families and/or developing assessments of staff competencies;
- community engagement and collaboration. For example, examining the effectiveness of various models of collaboration with other early care and education programs and health and human service organizations and/or identifying elements of effective community partnerships, collaboration, and systems;
- health services. For example, examining programs for families regarding health issues such as family health literacy, smoking reduction, healthy sleep schedules for children, oral health, vision health, asthma control, and/or appropriate nutrition;
teacher and classroom characteristics and practices that influence children's academic readiness. For example, the impact of curricula, assessment, teaching strategies and approaches, or other environmental characteristics on children's learning and development;
leadership and management in Head Start and Early Head Start programs (e.g., how leadership, organizational structure, and management influence climate and culture of programs; how such factors influence the effectiveness of programs, services, teaching practices);
- projects of relevance to Head Start or Early Head Start using secondary data. Potential secondary datasets include, but are not limited to:
(a) the Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey (FACES): https://www.acf.hhs.gov/opre/research/project/head-start-family-and-child-experiences-survey-faces
(b) the Early Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey (Baby FACES): https://www.acf.hhs.gov/opre/research/project/early-head-start-family-and-child-experiences-study-baby-faces
(c) Head Start Classroom-based Approaches and Resources for Emotion and Social skill promotion (Head Start CARES): https://www.acf.hhs.gov/opre/research/project/head-start-cares-head-start-classroom-based-approaches-and-resources-for
(d) the American Indian and Alaska Native Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey (AI/AN FACES): https://www.acf.hhs.gov/opre/research/project/american-indian-and-alaska-native-head-start-family-and-child-experiences-survey-faces
(e) the National Survey of Early Care and Education (NSECE): https://www.acf.hhs.gov/opre/research/project/national-survey-of-early-care-and-education-nsece-2010-2014
(f) the Study of Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships (EHS-CC Partnerships): (link available in Spring 2019)
Data sets and supporting documents can be found on Child Care and Early Education Research Connections: http://www.researchconnections.org/childcare/datasets-instruments.jsp
Head Start Program Performance Standards
Each applicant should assess whether their proposal is relevant to the child, family, program, and/or community systems that are features of the Head Start and Early Head Start programs. To that end, applicants can review the Head Start Program Performance Standards at https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/policy/45-cfr-chap-xiii.
C. Project Requirements
1. Consultation/Collaboration with Head Start Program Administrators. Applicants must consult and collaborate with a Head Start and/or Early Head Start program in the development of the proposal. Collaborations with programs should be evident in the research proposal, and at a minimum, in signed letters of support from the participating, Head Start or Early Head Start program(s), and from the relevant Head Start or Early Head Start Policy Council(s). For the Head Start and Early Head Start program office contact list, please visit the Head Start Program Directory at: https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/federal-monitoring/report/program-service-reports or the Head Start Locator at: https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/center-locator.
2. Research Dissemination. As a post-award requirement, grantees are expected to participate in several activities that will facilitate communication and dissemination of research between researchers, policymakers, and program administrators:
(a) Conferences and Meetings. For each year of the award, participation in two conferences is mandatory. The first conference is the Annual Meeting of CCEEPRC in Washington, DC. Additionally, participation in one of the following is required: (1) ACF's National Research Conference on Early Childhood (in alternating years) or (2) in an off-year, a professional society meeting that corresponds with the applicant’s profession/area of expertise. The applicant's proposed budget should reflect funds to cover travel, lodging, and other costs for the scholar and mentor for two conferences per budget period, including 3 days lodging and expenses for each meeting.
Participation in the scholars' grantee meeting is also mandatory. In previous years, this meeting has been scheduled to coincide with the Annual Meeting of the Child Care and Early Education Policy Research Consortium (CCEEPRC). Participants should budget 2 days of lodging and expenses for this meeting for the student and mentor. However, if the faculty mentor will utilize another source of travel funds, such arrangements are encouraged and should be clearly noted in the application.
(b) Research Briefs and Briefings. Twice during the award, the scholar is expected to prepare a one to two page brief describing the objectives, hypotheses, and/or findings (when available), and the potential practice or policy implications of their research projects. These briefs will be required at the beginning and end of the project period. At the beginning of the project period, the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE) will provide grantees with guidance to support the development of the research briefs. Examples can be found on the ACF/OPRE website at: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/opre/research/project/early-head-start-research-to-practice-0. In addition, the grantee may be asked to present at research briefings in Washington, DC. Work plans/timelines included in the application should reflect time and effort for preparation of research briefs during the course of the project. (The budget need not reflect travel funds for possible briefing(s) in Washington, DC.)
(c) Archiving and Publishing. The scholar must agree to archive his/her approved dissertation, final grant-funded datasets, reports, and other research products in the Early Care and Education Data Archive at the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) or a project officer-designated digital library. For more information on the Early Care and Education Data Archive and social science data preparation and archiving, please visit: https://www.icpsr.umich.edu/icpsrweb/content/deposit/guide/.
Budget Period: 12-month periods of time for which funds are made available to a particular grantee (i.e., the first budget period would begin September 30, 2019, and end September 29, 2020).
Principal Investigator: The faculty mentor of the doctoral-level graduate student serves as the Principal Investigator (PI) of the grant.
Project Period: The total length of the proposed project, which is either 12 or 24 months. For a 1-year proposed project, the project period would be the same as the budget period and, for example, start September 30, 2019 and end September 29, 2020. For a 2-year proposed project, the project period would, for example, start September 30, 2019, and end September 29, 2021.
E. Questions Regarding Application
For questions regarding this funding opportunity and/or the application process, please call (877) 350-5913 or direct inquiries via email to: OPRE Head Start Graduate Student Research Grant Review at HSGraduateResearchReviews@icfi.com.
F. Additional Information
The merit of the application and the award are associated with the support of a single graduate student, specified in the application. Awards may not be transferred to support any other graduate student. Grant awards are not transferable to another organization or institution without prior written approval from ACF. In addition, grant funds may not be used to support project activities outside the scope of the proposal for the awarded project without prior written approval by ACF.
Sharing of Awards
The awards are for support of an individual graduate student researcher. Awards cannot be divided among two or more students (i.e., no co-investigators).
If the applicant institution voluntarily relinquishes their indirect costs, or chooses to apply off-campus research rates, an authorized representative of the institution must submit a written acknowledgement that the indirect costs are being relinquished or a lower rate is being used. This voluntary decision to relinquish indirect costs, or to apply off-campus research rates, will not impact eligibility to submit an application and will not be a factor in an objective review.