Yesterday, the Office of Head Start (OHS) announced the release of the new Head Start Program Performance Standards (HSPPS). This is important and exciting for current and future Head Start and Early Head Start grantees, and yesterday afternoon OHS provided overview information about the new HSPPS in a webcast to the field (a recording of the webcast is available on ECLKC).

We recommend viewing the recorded webinar if you weren’t able to participate live. There was a lot of information shared, and OHS continues to supplement with online resources. See the Presenting the New Head Start Program Performance Standards page on ECLKC for links to the standards, Program Instruction (PI), Questions & Answers, and other related information.

Some of the highlights from the webinar include the following:

  • Out with the old, in with the new. It was stated loud and clear that grantees should immerse themselves in the new standards. The new, research based, standards maintain the core principles of Head Start, but with a shift in focus from a process approach to an outcomes approach. The use of data is essential for continuous quality improvement at the child, family, and community levels. We also heard from OHS that the new standards are less about “how” and more about “what.”
  • Five clearly defined sections. The standards are organized into five sections: 1301 (Program Governance), 1302 (Program Operations), 1303 (Financial & Administrative Requirements), 1304 (Federal Administrative Procedures), and 1305 (Definitions). Some standards are unchanged, some include minor revisions from the old version, some are major revisions, and others are completely new. This is why it is essential to read, re-read, and fully understand the new requirements. OHS also stressed the importance of reviewing the preamble, which lays out detailed information about why and how the new regulations came to be.
  • A new definition for duration. OHS has shifted to a “annual hours” approach to duration of services. The new standards move away from a 180 days per year, 6 hours per day definition to a set number of hours. Head Start grantees will be required to provide a minimum of 1,020 hours of services to children, and EHS 1,380 hours. HS grantees will be required to meet the hours as part of an incremental approach culminating in five years. EHS grantees will be 100% compliant within the next year.
  • Strengthening services is a core focus. OHS spoke about strengthening services from a number of perspectives, including educational, inclusion, and family engagement. There is a focus on research-based supports, as well as using data to drive program practices and outcomes. Again, OHS is defining the “what” and giving grantees the flexibility to put strategies in place to achieve standards.
  • Systems alignment is key. Aligning with state systems to streamline requirements and reduce administrative burdens is a new focus. This includes licensing, QRIS, leveraging state data systems, collaboration with state pre-k, and work with agencies responsible for IDEA.
  • Technical assistance is coming. Another takeaway from OHS is that they are prepared to offer technical assistance to help grantees understand and work toward implementation of the new standards. OHS will be releasing a “Performance Standards Showcase” on ECLKC. OHS will also hold a webinar series every third Wednesday of the month at 2:00-3:30pm EST to review standards and provide questions and answers. There will also be a presence at national and regional events.
  • Compliance (for most standards) is required by November 7, 2016. Most provisions must be met within 60 days from publication, November 7, 2016. However, there are some provisions with later compliance dates. See the recently published PI for a list of compliance dates.

Over the coming days and weeks we will continue to blog about the new HSPPS. There are many topics of interest and as we analyze the standards and learn new information from OHS we will blog about it here. As you read the new standards in detail you may start to form a list of questions. What is the best way to align with state systems? How can data be leveraged to support child and family outcomes? Who do we need to communicate with and train about the new HSPPS? If you have questions top of mind please feel free to be in touch and let us know what you’re thinking. Happy reading!

Thank you.

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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 augenblick@foundationsforfamilies.com to learn about how we can help.

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