How the Performance Standards Support New Early Head Start Programs: Lessons Learned from Research

Publication Date: April 15, 2009


In this research brief we review what was learned from the Early Head Start Research and Evaluation Project (EHSREP) about the importance of the Head Start Program Performance Standards (HSPPS), and how the first Early Head Start (EHS) programs worked toward fully implementing the standards. We hope that this information will help other new EHS programs as they begin to serve families.

The study included three rounds of week-long site visits to each of the 17 programs in the study during the period from 1996 to 1999. Site visits included: individual and group interviews with program staff, parents, and community members; staff surveys; reviews of randomly selected case files to learn about service patterns of individual families; and observations of center classrooms and home visits. Taking all of this information, rating scales assessing implementation of the HSPPS were completed. In order to achieve full implementation, a program must score at least 4 on a 5-point scale for all of the domains assessed. The domains covered—Child Development and Health, Family Development, Staff Development, and Community Building—represent the four cornerstones envisioned by the Advisory Committee on Head Start Programs Serving Infants and Toddlers, as well as a fifth domain of Management Systems and Procedures.

The EHSREP found that overall, children and families benefited from EHS. EHS had modest sized positive impacts for children’s cognitive, language, social-emotional and health outcomes as well as a variety of parent and family outcomes.

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