By Julie Shuell, Senior Consultant, Foundations for Families
2017 has arrived and while the new Head Start Program Performance Standards (HSPPS) compliance dates seem far away, they will be here before we know it. Whether your program jumped in with two feet when new standards were issued or you’ve just recently begun tackling changes, we recommend a having a clear approach to implementation that is written, communicated and routinely revisited. The new year is an opportunity to take a fresh look at how your program will achieve compliance and ensure your management systems support staying in compliance for years to come.
To tackle the new HSPPS you could begin with a facilitated convening of senior staff, a handful of program staff (e.g. teachers, home visitors, ERSEA workers) and parents. If you’re an Early Head Start – Child Care Partnership grantee, including your child care partners may also make sense. As a group, walk through the entire set of HSPPS and place them into three categories on flip charts:
Category 1: Standards you are meeting now, for which systems are in place and are currently working. Your most recent self-assessment and/or on-site monitoring review have confirmed compliance and your data systems can produce reports on indicators.
Category 2: Standards you are close to meeting or could meet with minor tweaks, including management systems, to ensure routine compliance.
Category 3: Standards you are not meeting.
Category 2 standards are areas where your program could experience quick wins. Tackling these first will also allow staff, who may be experiencing anxiety about changes, to learn about the new HSPPS and see that your program is already on the right path. Leading staff through change is an important part of success. Assigning content area managers to execute action plans for Category 2 standards under their purview may make the most sense, as the work should be short-term and simpler than your Category 3 standards.
Category 3 represents the biggest hurdle. To start, your group could further put these standards into two buckets:
- Standards where you have the internal knowledge, skills and time to develop and implement a plan of action for compliance.
- Standards where you need help; a consultant, an external content expert, and/or additional worker bees to help research and consider options for meeting the standards before you can develop a plan of action.
After you put your Category 3 standards into buckets you can then cluster groups of standards together to avoid addressing them in isolation. The new standards are comprehensive, complementary, build on each other and are supported by a variety of management systems. Next, prioritize the areas of work and set action plans with timelines and assignments (Plan), implement the plans (Do), document implementation and review data to determine areas of improvement or weakness (Study), and implement again with adjustments (Act). Throughout these steps make sure to involve families and staff.
Finally, your program may want to assign a senior grantee staff person to oversee meeting new HSPPS. While deciding how to meet new standards should be inclusive and all program staff are responsible for all HSPPS, one person must keep their eye on the ball. This position could monitor implementation of action plans to ensure deadlines are met, procedures are developed/modified and approved, parents have been involved, data systems are tweaked or created, and staff are held accountable. This position can also identify needed shifts in program resources to support achievement of new HSPPS. Changes in budget will need to be done in coordination with the grantee Finance team, Program Director and Policy Council.
Foundations for Families’ consulting staff have significant experience and expertise advising Head Start and Early Head Start grantees on a range of topics including program design approaches, fiscal planning, management systems and compliance. We work strategically with grantees to understand your needs and collaborate to help you achieve your program goals. Whatever approach you choose to take, there are many steps and moving parts. Welcome 2017 with renewed energy for the new HSPPS and you are bound to be successful!
We have successfully worked with agencies in every round of recompetition to write winning grants, design competitive programs, confirm prudent budgets, and plan for a manageable start-up period. Contact Amy Augenblick, Executive Director, at (703) 599-4329 or [email protected] to learn about how we can help.
I would highly recommend the work of Foundations for Families and the value that they bring in terms of knowledge and expertise (both breadth and depth), skillfulness in working with management and staff, and their passion for this work. I would also highly recommend Foundation for Families for those existing or long-standing HS/EHS programs that are looking for ways to improve their Program Management and Fiscal Operations (PMFO).
Dave Kontur, Executive Director
Lucas County Family and Children First Council, Toledo, Ohio