This was an important week for Head Start/Early Head Start monitoring. On Monday September 18 the Office of Head Start (OHS) held a webinar to introduce the FY2018 Aligned Monitoring System (otherwise known as AMS 2.0).

If you viewed the AMS 2.0 webinar this week (OHS slides available here) then you probably heard some themes that sound familiar – less prescriptive, flexible, progress, outcomes-focused. AMS 2.0 was designed to align with the new Head Start Program Performance Standards (HSPPS) and, as you know, this is the same way OHS has been talking about the new standards.

There are a few key changes from AMS to AMS 2.0. Looking for a brief recap? Check out this helpful flyer from OHS. There are five main differences described, including:

  1. Reduced burden for grantee
  2. Increased focus on progress over time
  3. Greater focus on the use of data, process, and outcomes
  4. Introduction of focus areas
  5. More streamlined process

Three reviews will be taking place in FY18: CLASS, Focus Area 1, and Focus Area 2. Our understanding from the webinar is that reviewers will move between program areas during their reviews. Rather than walking through a checklist of items section by section, a customized approach will allow grantees to talk about what they’re doing in their program, why, and how. This is the Focus Area approach, further described below as summarized from the OHS webinar.

Focus Area 1: This review looks at “structure, services, systems, and staffing.” It is conducted through a series of off-site interviews (virtual or phone), and reviewers will be prepared with background knowledge on the grantee through a document review (e.g., PIR, community needs assessment). The review will focus on strengths and needs, staffing and program design, fiscal, program governance and accountability, and approaches to education and services.

Focus Area 2: This review is onsite and is conducted via conversations, observations, and fiscal analysis. It will be used for grantees to show their ability to “track and assess their program’s performance,” “use data to drive results,” and “make adjustments that promote ongoing continuous improvement. OHS states that these onsite reviews could span 5 days and include a team of approximately 3 reviewers.

We’re curious to learn more about the Focus Areas and will be attending the October 10, 2017 launch in the FY18 AMS 2.0 Virtual Expo. We’ll let you know what we learn!

Remember, you can log into the Virtual Expo at any time to access materials related to AMS 2.0. You can also sign in and join an open Office Hours session with OHS staff. In fact, there is one today from 1-2pm, and also from 2-3pm. If you have questions, check it out, as you may be able to get a quick answer. We popped into a session yesterday and learned that grantees can expect to receive a letter by the end of September/beginning of October describing the type of review they will receive. This will be helpful to learn, as OHS reports that CLASS reviews will begin in October and Focus Area 1 and 2 reviews will begin in November 2017.

Let’s recap on what’s next:

  • September 27, 2017 – Launch 1 Live Questions and Answers
  • October 10, 2017 (12pm ET) – Launch 2 (Focus Area 1 and Focus Area 2 reviews)
  • October 17, 2017 – Launch 2 Live Questions and Answers

Check back here for the highlights as new information is released!

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