In 2000, Head Start marked the fifth year of implementing its system of Program Performance Measures. As the nation's premier early childhood education program, Head Start is leading the way in developing and reporting on its accountability for services to more than 800,000 children and their families each year. From initial planning in 1995 to the ongoing data collection of a second cohort of Head Start children that began in Fall 2000, Head Start has made dramatic progress in developing an outcome-oriented accountability system. This approach combines the best attributes of scientific research with program-level reporting and monitoring and is based on a consensus-driven set of criteria for program accountability.
The Head Start Program Performance Measures Initiative is a response to a specific legislative mandate, strategic planning for Head Start, and broader public emphasis on accountability and the general movement toward results-oriented evaluation. Specifically, the Program Performance Measures were developed in accordance with the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Head Start Quality and Expansion, the mandate of Section 641A (b) of the Head Start Act (42 USC 9831 et seq.) as reauthorized in 1994 and the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA)(Public Law 103-62).
The Head Start Act defines Program Performance Measures as "methods and procedures for measuring, annually and over longer periods, the quality and effectiveness of programs operated by Head Start agencies" that will be used to identify strengths and weaknesses in the Head Start program--both nationally and by region--and to pinpoint areas requiring additional training and technical assistance.