Policy & Regulations

The 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 apply to both Head Start and Early Head Start programs. They serve as the foundation for Head Start’s mission to deliver comprehensive, high-quality individualized services supporting the school readiness of children from low-income families

The Head Start Program Performance Standards (HSPPS) were revised in 2016 to strengthen and improve the quality of Head Start programs. The streamlined Standards were the first comprehensive revision of the HSPPS since they were originally published in 1975. The HSPPS reflect best practices and the latest research on early childhood development and brain science. They give grantees flexibility in achieving positive child and family outcomes, and encourage the use of data to track progress and reach goals in all program areas.

Read the Standards, or download the Standards in PDF.

Find more about the 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.  The Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act of 2007 had several provisions to strengthen Head Start quality. These include alignment of Head Start school readiness goals with state early learning standards, higher qualifications for the Head Start teaching workforce, State Advisory Councils on Early Care and Education in every state, and increased program monitoring, including a review of child outcomes and annual financial audits. The Head Start training and technical assistance system was redesigned to support programs through National Centers and state-based systems to ensure success. The statute also required the development of a system of designation renewal for grants, and a revision of the Head Start Program Performance Standards.


Program Instructions

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


Information Memorandum

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.


Last Reviewed: June 5, 2019