In recent months we’ve heard concerns from Head Start/Early Head Start programs that were informed they have an upcoming Focus Area Two review as part of the new Aligned Monitoring System 2.0 (AMS 2.0). If your first AMS 2.0 monitoring visit is causing you stress, you’re not alone. You might be wondering, how will a Focus Area Two monitoring visit be different than monitoring visits of the past? Is our program prepared? What can we do to ensure a positive outcome from the visit?

If you’ve been following our DRS Updates blog, you’ve seen that we spent some time last fall discussing AMS 2.0 and how you can lay the groundwork for a Focus Area 2 review. We also talked briefly about Foundations for Families approach to assessing monitoring readiness. Today, we’ll dig in deeper on the topic of assessment readiness to help you feel comfortable and confidently prepared for a review.

Focus Area Two is an opportunity for grantees to demonstrate their effectiveness in implementing a high-quality program to promote positive outcomes and school readiness for children and their families. During the review grantees tell their story of how they are implementing the Head Start Program Performance Standards (HSPPS). You’ll also share how you use data to track performance, progress, and compliance and work toward continuous improvement of your program. The monitoring review is largely discussion based (with managers, staff, parents, governing body, and/or policy council) and also includes a data review, ERSEA child file review and classroom/facilities observations. This is no small task!

So how is this different than the old monitoring system? The old monitoring reviews were focused strictly on compliance. They were very compartmentalized and scripted. AMS 2.0 is much more fluid and holistic, and your Focus Area Two may look different than another grantee’s Focus Area Two review. You’re telling a story unique to your program.

Preparing for a Focus Area Two review requires time, commitment and purpose. We strongly recommend looking at the Focus Area Two protocol and determining what your responses would be to the questions listed. Gather the relevant documentation. Consider how you will describe the ways you use data in your program. You must also be exceedingly familiar with Federal Regulations and the HSPPS that are highlighted in Focus Area Two.

If your program is feeling particularly concerned about your readiness for an upcoming Focus Area Two monitoring review, you might benefit from Foundations for Families Assessment Readiness Tool (ART). Our team developed this comprehensive tool, which is designed to facilitate planning and preparation for a Focus Area Two review. We help you determine whether your team is “ready,” “not ready,” or “almost ready” for each item that may be measured during your review. We then translate this information into a dashboard that provides a visual representation of program readiness and highlights areas where the most work is still needed. From here, we can help you create a roadmap to enhance your programs monitoring readiness.

One of the main benefits of the ART is that it gives an opportunity for program staff and other stakeholders to practice providing comprehensive, concise and clear expectations of what they do and how they use data. The tool is aligned directly to the monitoring protocol, so you’ll have clear information about where greater preparation. Through use of the ART you will engage your team in the process for readiness preparation. No matter what process or tools you use to prepare, practice is key!

If your program needs assistance to prepare for an upcoming monitoring review or if you’re interested to learn more about the ART please feel free to be in touch. We would be glad to discuss your program’s needs.

Thank you.

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