The Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE) recently released a report, Early Implementation of the Head Start Designation Renewal System (DRS), presenting information learned from a formative evaluation of the DRS. This report may be of interest to you if you’ve had to compete for continued funding or find yourself on the Round 5 list or a part of a future cohort. It has been 5 years since DRS was created, and information is becoming available about early implementation of the system. We can start to answer questions such as, how competitive are the grants? And, what is the DRS process like for grantees?
Below are a few interesting takeaways from the report. (There is much information to be learned from reading the complete report if you have the time!)
The competition factor – As stated in the report, only 42 percent of the cohort 3 grants up for competition had more than one applicant. In other words, 58% of cohort 3 grants had one applicant. If there was an award to a new applicant it was most often a Head Start grantee or delegate from a different service area.
Increased efforts to improve program quality – Despite there not being significant competition, there is evidence that “DRS is incentivizing grantees to improve quality, especially the quality of teacher-child interactions.” The report highlights that many applicants changed their service delivery model, and in particular proposed increased numbers of teachers with a bachelor’s degree and lower child to teacher ratios.
Questions about CLASS – We’ve heard before some questions about whether the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) is a good assessment of program quality to trigger designation. That sentiment is reflected in the report, which notes that grantees had concerns about the use of CLASS. The study suggests that CLASS may not consistently identify higher or lower quality grantees, and researchers explored possible contributing factors (e.g., variability among raters).
As the Office of Head Start continues to enhance efforts to ensure grantees are equipped to provide high quality services, it will be interesting to see what, if any, changes are made to DRS.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org to learn about how we can help.