The FY2024 Head Start monitoring season is in full swing as the Office of Head Start (OHS) hosted its Monitoring Kickoff Webinar, new protocols have been posted, and programs have been notified if they’re receiving a FY2024 review. This year, there are meaningful changes to the content and format of reviews. Here, we highlight some of the key takeaways from the kickoff webinar and our initial review of OHS monitoring protocols and materials.

Unannounced reviews are back. Programs receiving an FY2024 monitoring review will receive a letter 45 days in advance of a review to notify them of the exact dates the review will take place. The exception is unannounced reviews, which are starting back up again. These have been on hold since pre-pandemic. Most programs will have a scheduled review, and a sample of programs will receive an unannounced review. Unannounced reviews apply only to programs receiving a Focus Area 2 review; all Focus Area 1 reviews are scheduled in advance.

There is consistency in how reviews are conducted, and there are some new features. Focus Area 1 reviews will be held virtually. These reviews will now also feature a screen share component to allow the program to share data and documentation with the reviewer. Focus Area 2 reviews will be hybrid (virtual and in-person). For Focus Area 2, there will be three reviewers on site to engage in discussions, visit classrooms, etc.; only the fiscal component will be conducted virtually.

FY2024 monitoring protocols have been updated – and more so than in previous years. With respect to format and content, this year’s protocols are different. Each section of the protocol now includes an overview of the “Monitoring Approach,” which describes the specific activities that reviewers will complete for that content area to gather the information they need to make determinations. Further, some content has been re-organized within the performance measures, while for other performance measures, new content has been added (e.g., PDMI performance measure 3.4 – developing systems to support the head start workforce). If you are expecting a review this year, we strongly encourage you to review the protocols closely to ensure your responses and data are aligned to the new protocols. The Aligned Monitoring System 2.0 Virtual Expo now also includes “at a glance” tip sheets and other tools for each content area to support the data tours and explorations (e.g., classroom, center).

CLASS reviews are happening, and DRS determinations will be known more quickly. New for CLASS reviews, “grant recipients will have the opportunity to self-record and submit their own videos or request an on-site CLASS review.” And, this is the first year since pre-pandemic that CLASS scores will be used for DRS determinations. Previously, grantees had to wait until the entire cohort of programs had their CLASS review to find out if their program would be in DRS; now, determinations will be shared in the monitoring report. (This is due to the August 2020 changes to the CLASS condition of DRS, which removed the 10% threshold in place of quality and competitive thresholds.)

A new feature of reviews, Strong Practices, will identify innovative practices. Reviewers will explore ways that programs are implementing innovative practices that bring value to the program and community. As shared in the kickoff webinar, not every program will have Strong Practices, but when they are there, they will be highlighted in the monitoring report.

Monitoring reports will be streamlined to more clearly communicate strengths and challenges. OHS describes the updated monitoring reports as more user-friendly for parents, boards, and policy councils, and for the community in general. The reports will also more clearly articulate compliance issues or deficiencies so that they can be understood and then corrected with clarity.

A sample reporting form and RAN protocol will support programs that have a child health and safety incident. RAN (Risk Assessment Notification) is a type of special review that takes place if a program has had an incident (e.g., unauthorized release, inappropriate conduct, supervision) related to child health and safety. OHS expects to release more information about the RAN protocol soon. In the kickoff webinar, it was stated that the protocol was developed in response to an increase in child health and safety issues over the last two years, and OHS is interested in understanding the root cause of incidents. Stay tuned for more information about the sample reporting form and RAN protocol.

If your program anticipates a federal monitoring review this program year, we encourage you to explore Foundations for Families’ Consulting Services. If you need assistance preparing for a federal review, please be in touch. Our team of consultants will work with your program to determine a process, timeline, and approach that is the best fit for your needs.

Thank you.

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