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Early Childhood Education - Sure Start

Welcome to Sure Start
Sure Start is an exemplary, research-based preschool program that serves military children and families living overseas. In addition to offering a high-quality educational program that reflects best practices in the field, Sure Start also provides health and nutrition, social, and parent involvement services. Close collaboration between families, schools, and the installation community is viewed as essential and a required part of the program.

This multipronged approach to the delivery of services distinguishes Sure Start from all other DoDEA programs. At the same time, Sure Start ensures that participating children receive the same uncompromisingly excellent education that all DoDEA children are guaranteed.

Sure Start's comprehensive model, although appropriate for all preschool children, targets preschoolers who are "at risk" for later school failure because of economic circumstance or other health and/or family factors.

Sure Start Program Guide

The Sure Start Guide provides guidance to help ensure that best practices from early childhood programs are provided within the program.

  • Specific sponsor eligibility requirements are defined and outlined within the guide along with specific information about the program.
  • Part I of this Guide (Chapters 1-5) provides an overview of each component area in the Sure Start program.
  • Part II (Chapters 6-7) presents the mechanics of how the Sure Start program operates at each site while Chapter 8 presents Frequently Asked Questions about the program.


DoDEA believes that with a sure start, children in all military families can develop the social/emotional and academic competence needed for productive, lifelong learning. The Sure Start preschool program is based on the premise that children's potential for learning is influenced by their early cultural, physical, social, emotional, linguistic, creative, and cognitive experiences. It incorporates the tenets of child growth and development and family systems theory that stem from the works of Piaget, Erikson, Vygotsky, Smilansky, Kolb, Bronfenbrenner, and Gardner, among others. Because children who are identified as being at risk for school failure may have limited access to opportunities that enhance development in all domains, Sure Start provides children and families with an intensive curriculum that teaches requisite skills in a way that addresses children's unique learning styles and intelligences. The Sure Start program is wedded to the beliefs that risk is not destiny and that early intervention can ameliorate risk factors.

Enrollment Eligibility

Sure Start is a program for command sponsored dependents. It is primarily a program for qualified four year olds. (The child must turn four years old by September 1 of the current school year.) Children qualify for Sure Start based on family dynamics which may put the child "at risk":

  • based on rank of sponsor (E-1-E-4 or civilian rank equivalent, first priority) single parent household
  • parent(s) not a high school graduate
  • parent a teenager when first child was born
  • one or both parents speak a language other than English as their primary language;
  • low birth weight;
  • parent is on remote assignment (TDY) three months or more;
  • four or more children close in age, living in the home;
  • child has older sibling with a severe disability.

Different Models
The Head Start Model

Sure Start strives to incorporate the many features of Head Start that are correlated with high quality:

  • full day program
  • four-pronged delivery system - education, health, social services, and family involvement
  • medical, dental and developmental screenings and follow-up assessment
  • nutritious lunches and snacks
  • active involvement by family
  • developmentally appropriate practice at the core of all programming.
Features Unique to Sure Start

To make Sure Start fit into DoDEA culture and regulations, Sure Start has evolved into a program with a distinct personality. Specifically, Sure Start differs from Head Start in the following ways:

  • oversight of the program is by DoDEA, rather than the program itself;
  • while Head Start uses income as the defining criterion for eligibility, Sure Start regards family income as the most important- but not the sole- factor in enrollment eligibility;
  • whereas Head Start mandates that a minimum of 10% of classroom slots be reserved for children with disabilities, Sure Start does not use disability status as an enrollment criterion;
  • parent involvement in Sure Start is a mandatory part of the program;
  • Sure Start uses DoDEA PreK Foundational Standards to base its curriculum. Teachers and program assistants receive
  • training in its implementation to ensure consistency;
  • Sure Start specifies a ratio of 2 adults to 18-20 students.

A Day in Sure Start!
Although every Sure Start program is different, most programs follow a schedule similar to the one below:

  • 8:15 - 8:45 Quiet Centers to start our day. We can work on the computers, play a game with friends, do a puzzle, draw a picture, write a story, read a book, choose a table toy...

  • 8:45 - 9:00 At Group Time we sing songs, recite poems, listen to stories, do fingerplays, and share with our friends

  • 9:00 - 10:00 All Centers are open for exploring! We can dress up and play in our housekeeping/dramatic play area, build a tower or make a road in the blocks center, play at the water table, make and eat a snack, paint, create with play-doh, read a book, write a story, create with Legos, paint or draw, work on a special project....

  • 10:00 - 11:00 Outdoor Play. Ride bikes, climb, slide, run, kick a ball, play in the house, work at a center...

  • 11:00 - 11:15 Group Time - listen to a story, sing some songs, share with our friends, review our morning work...

  • 11:15 - 11:45 Lunch. Set the table, Eat with our friends, teachers and parents, talk with our friends, eat healthy food, clean up.

  • 11:45 - 12:00 Brush teeth, get ready for rest time.

  • 12:00 - 1:15 Rest time. Our bodies need rest to grow.

  • 1:15 - 2:15 Eat snack and work at our centers

  • 2:15 - Good-bye! See you tomorrow. We can't wait to tell our family about our day in Sure Start!

Contact Information:

DoDEA Early Childhood Education Coordinator
4800 Mark Center Drive
Alexandria, VA 22350-1400