Self-assessment is a process that, when planned well and conducted comprehensively, can yield useful information to improve program quality and mitigate risk in Head Start/Early Head Start. Risks may be specific or broad, and with the greatest risk being a program receiving a DRS designation and failing to successfully compete for funding.
Through the annual self-assessment, programs evaluate their effectiveness in providing program services and identify strengths and areas in need of improvement. Head Start Program Performance Standards (HSPPS) require that Head Start/Early Head Start grantees conduct an annual self-assessment. The requirements are general (e.g., progress toward meeting program goals, compliance with standards, and effectiveness of professional development and family engagement systems).
We recommend you follow OHS’ five-stage process for self-assessment: design, engagement of team, analysis and dialogue, recommendations development, and report preparation. Because the requirements of self-assessment are broad, there is flexibility to design a process, data collection, and action items that meet the needs of your program.
Before you can begin the design phase, however, it’s important to spend some time in the pre-planning phase. This may be the best opportunity to support risk mitigation. During the planning phase, identify what your program will focus on beyond the basic requirements of self-assessment. Consider aligning priorities with your program’s upcoming monitoring reviews or, if your program is in DRS, the most recent DRS Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA).
For example, if your program has an upcoming Focus Area 2 review, align self-assessment priorities with the Focus Area Two Monitoring Protocol. Review the protocol and pinpoint areas that could be a challenge for your program. These are areas that you should prioritize in your self-assessment. In doing so, you will have an opportunity to reflect and develop a plan for improvement – a plan that can be implemented prior to the monitoring review. The risk of having a finding in the monitoring review will be mitigated by the preparation that has taken place through the self-assessment and follow up.
Similarly, if your program is in DRS, review the most recent FOA. In the DRS application, you will need to write about why your program is in DRS and what your program did to correct the issue. Identify requirements in the FOA that will be challenging for your program to respond to. Prioritize these areas in the self-assessment and address them now. Your program will be better positioned to respond to the FOA with a clear and compelling application.
By aligning self-assessment priorities with relevant source documents (e.g., monitoring protocol, DRS FOA), your program can resolve potential risks before they become issues. With a thoughtful, priority-driven design for self-assessment, your program will be better equipped with to gather useful data and information to support program quality.
Foundations for Families’ Consulting Services include self-assessment and federal review preparation. Our team of consultants is highly skilled at implementing services remotely and would be glad to assist your program in areas where you need support. Please contact us to learn more about our services.
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