Head Start and Early Head Start standards raised to increase quality and accountability

More than 150 agencies will receive grants to provide Head Start or Early Head Start services in their communities for the next five years according to an announcement made today by Office of Head Start (OHS) Director Yvette Sanchez Fuentes. The awardees were selected through a competition that compared existing Head Start grantees to other potential providers to determine which organizations could provide the best early education services to their communities.

“This competition raises the quality of Head Start programs across America,” said Director Sanchez Fuentes.  “We are holding every provider accountable to deliver high-quality comprehensive services to children and families, so we can continue to deliver on the promise Head Start makes to communities.”

As part of the Head Start reforms President Obama announced in 2011, 125 Head Start grantees that failed to meet a new set of rigorous benchmarks were required to compete for continued federal funding with other potential early childhood services providers in their communities.  Grantees that chose to compete for funding were required to demonstrate that they had corrected all deficiencies in a sustainable manner in order to be considered for funding for the next five years.  As part of this sweeping reform to the Head Start program, all grantees will be evaluated under transparent, research-based standards to ensure that programs are providing the highest quality services to children and families.

In this first round of competition, all competitors had to submit proposals detailing how they would achieve Head Start’s goal of delivering high-quality early childhood services to the nation’s most vulnerable infants, toddlers and preschoolers.  These proposals were subjected to an extensive evaluation process, including review by a panel of independent early childhood professionals and assessment by Certified Public Accountants to determine a potential grantee’s ability to implement Head Start’s mission and standards in their community.  In a few cases, the panel determined that an existing grant would be more effective if it was split up amongst multiple agencies, bringing the total number of grants yielded from the first round of competition to 153. A full list of the selected grantees is available at http://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/hslc/hs/grants/dr/cohort-1-awards-result....

As a result of the 2011 reforms, all Head Start grants are now awarded in five-year increments.  Grantees will be subject to strengthened grant terms and conditions to ensure every Head Start child across the country receives consistent, high-quality education and services.  Grantees are expected to meet OHS’ high quality benchmarks in order to be renewed for an additional five years, or face their grants being opened for recompetition.

A second group of Head Start grantees was notified in January that the grants for their service areas would also be open to competition.  The competitive process for those service areas will open to the public later this summer. 

For more information on Head Start, please visit www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ohs/.