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New Head Start Rule Reduces Burden on High-Performing Grantees

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Early Childhood

Today, the Office of Head Start at HHS’s Administration for Children and Families (ACF) unveiled a rule to better improve the quality of Head Start services by refining the Designation Renewal System (DRS). The new DRS rule holds Head Start and Early Head Start agencies accountable for delivering high-quality and comprehensive services by ensuring the best grantees are providing services to Head Start children and families in each local area.

“This change helps ensure the most qualified grantee is providing services to each of our 850,000 Head Start children and their families,” said ACF Assistant Secretary Lynn Johnson. “By reducing burden on high-performing grantees, the time and resources invested in administering competition will focus on better identifying grantees that are not performing at the level we expect.”

“These changes provide clear and consistent quality measures grantees are required to attain in order to receive continued Head Start grant funding,” said Office of Head Start Director Deborah Bergeron. “The revised DRS encourages Head Start agencies to focus on continuous quality improvement rather than just compliance, by supporting high-quality program operations including robust systems to support health and safety, financial, and human resource management.”

Background

The improved Designation Renewal System (DRS) has redefined criteria to ensure ACF identifies the Head Start grantees for which competition is most warranted, targeted to grantees with lower performance or systemic problems. These changes provide greater clarity around the competitive process for local Head Start agencies in communities across America, and a regulatory environment more conducive to continuous quality improvement, particularly of the interactions between Head Start children and their teachers.

The final rule on the Designation Renewal System will become effective on Oct. 27, 2020. The regulation:

Better identifies agencies with significant quality failures by requiring competition for grants that receive two or more deficiencies during OHS monitoring across the grantee’s five-year project period. The previous competitive threshold was one deficiency.

Promotes increased quality in Head Start classrooms by establishing quality thresholds for each domain of the CLASS® Pre-K assessment of the quality of teacher-child interactions. Any grantee with a score below one or more quality thresholds will be designated for quality improvement. For these grantees, OHS will provide support for quality improvement in teacher-child interactions and teaching practices.

Raises minimum expectations for all grantees regarding quality of the classroom learning environment. Any grantee with a score below one or more of the now higher minimum thresholds will be designated for competition.

Improves clarity regarding competitive status by eliminating the requirement of competition for grantees with the lowest 10 percent of CLASS scores in each domain annually, which is now replaced with clear targets rather than relative and fluctuating measures.

Enhances the fiscal health of Head Start grantees by requiring competition for agencies with two or more audit findings of material weakness or questioned costs associated with Head Start funds during the project period. The requirement for competition if a going concern is identified remains.

Head Start programs promote school readiness of children ages birth to five from low-income families by supporting the development of the whole child. Head Start programs support children’s growth and development in a positive learning environment through a variety of services, which include early learning, health and family well-being.

Quick Facts

  • The new DRS rule holds Head Start and Early Head Start agencies accountable for delivering high-quality and comprehensive services by ensuring the best grantees are providing services to Head Start children and families in each local area.
  • The final rule on the Designation Renewal System will become effective on Oct. 27, 2020.
  • Head Start programs promote school readiness of children ages birth to five from low-income families by supporting the development of the whole child.

Quotes

“This change helps ensure the most qualified grantee is providing services to each of our 850,000 Head Start children and their families.”
ACF Assistant Secretary Lynn Johnson
“By reducing burden on high-performing grantees, the time and resources invested in administering competition will focus on better identifying grantees that are not performing at the level we expect.”
ACF Assistant Secretary Lynn Johnson
“These changes provide clear and consistent quality measures grantees are required to attain in order to receive continued Head Start grant funding.”
Office of Head Start Director Deborah Bergeron
“The revised DRS encourages Head Start agencies to focus on continuous quality improvement rather than just compliance, by supporting high-quality program operations including robust systems to support health and safety, financial, and human resource management.”
Office of Head Start Director Deborah Bergeron
Last Reviewed: August 26, 2020
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