Policy & Regulations

Introducing the New Head Start Program Performance Standards

The Head Start Program Performance Standards are the foundation for Head Start’s mission to deliver comprehensive, high-quality individualized services to support the school readiness of children from low-income families. The new Standards announced on September 1, 2016 are the first comprehensive revision of the Head Start Program Performance Standards since they were originally published in 1975. The updates reflect best practices and latest research on early childhood development and brain science.

Find the Standards and the Preamble on the Federal Register, or download the Standards in PDF.

Find out more about the new Standards:

Find more about the new HSPPS on the Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center (ECLKC) website.


Head Start Act

On Dec. 12, 2007, President Bush signed Public Law 110-134 Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act of 2007, reauthorizing the Head Start program through Sept. 30, 2012.


Head Start Program Performance Standards

The Head Start Program Performance Standards define standards and minimum requirements for the entire range of Head Start services. They are applicable to both Head Start and Early Head Start programs.

The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) published a Final Rule on Sept. 1­­, 2016 revising the Head Start Program Performance Standards (HSPPS) to strengthen and improve the quality of Head Start programs. This action is part of the Administration’s early learning efforts to ensure that all children start school ready to succeed.

The bipartisan Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act of 2007 called for a review and revision of the HSPPS to ensure that all Head Start programs provide high quality, comprehensive services, and for the development of new, research-based education performance standards related to school readiness for Head Start children. ACF issued a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) in June of 2015 and received 1,000 comments on the proposed standards. The new Program Performance Standards incorporate key feedback and set a high bar for Head Start quality. The new HSPPS put in place higher standards based on years of research and effective practice in Head Start, providing for effective teaching, staff professional development, and high-quality curriculum in Head Start; strong parent engagement and involvement in programs; comprehensive health services and child safety; effective management; and a full school day and year of services for all Head Start children. At the same time, the new Program Performance Standards make program requirements easier for current and future program leaders to understand and reduce administrative burden so that Head Start directors can focus on delivering high-quality comprehensive early learning programs that help put children onto a path of success.

Find more about the new HSPPS on the Early Chilhood Learning and Knowledge Center (ECLKC) website.


Program Instructions

A Program Instruction (PI) addresses a specific requirement that Head Start grantees and delegate agencies must implement in their programs.


Information Memorandums

An Information Memorandum (IM) is a targeted communication tool from the Office of Head Start which provides policy information to Head Start and Early Head Start grantees and delegate agencies.


Head Start Designation Renewal

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), as required by Congress in the  Head Start Act, established the Designation Renewal System (DRS) to establish five-year grant periods for all Head Start service awards. Many agencies receive further five-year grants without competing for funding. Any agency which meets a specified condition during the course of the grant period is not eligible for funding without competition. Instead, the opportunity to provide Head Start services in that area is made available to any interested agency which submits a competitive application in response to a funding opportunity announcement (FOA).

Funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) are listed on the ACF Grants page; sort by Application Due Date to see the open FOAs.

Last Reviewed: September 1, 2016