Fiscal Year 2021 Head Start Monitoring will look different than in years past, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. CLASS reviews are suspended, and Focus Area 1 (FA1) and Focus Area 2 (FA2) reviews will take place virtually. This is a big change for FA2, in particular, which typically takes place during a multi-day, on-site visit. If your program will have a FA2 review in FY2021, now is the time to prepare. This is an important part of risk mitigation to improve program quality and prevent competition.

FA2 is an opportunity for programs to demonstrate their effectiveness in implementing a high-quality program to promote positive outcomes and school readiness for children and their families. It includes discussions, data tours, and classroom observations (though these are not scheduled to occur in FY21). Being prepared in these areas, so that you can address any issues in advance, will help to ensure a successful review.

The FY21 FA2 Monitoring Protocol is holistic and integrated. It focuses on six areas: Program Management and Quality Improvement, Education and Child Development Services, Health Program Services, Family and Community Engagement Services, Fiscal Infrastructure, and ERSEA. There are many conversational, open-ended questions and opportunities for programs to provide context. Data sources may vary by grantee. Knowing ahead of time how you will respond and what sources you will provide is essential.

How can you prepare for your FY21 FA2 review?

In each section of the protocol there is a “What We Want to Learn” section. Start by reviewing these sections and review Federal Regulations and Head Start Program Performance Standards (HSPPS) included as references. As yourself (and each other) the questions provided. Turn indicators into questions and document the responses. You can also brainstorm key documentation and data sources relevant to each question. Identify gaps in responses and continue to practice.

When you think about your responses to FA2 questions, keep in mind that they should be comprehensive, concise, and clear. Be prepared to talk about your program strengths, lessons you have learned, and examples of situations where you have used data to inform decision-making for continuous program improvement. Also be prepared to talk about systems and practices you may want to improve, change, or create. Integration and coordination is key, so consider how you work across content areas.

FY21 Monitoring Reviews will feel different than they have in the past, and for good reason. COVID has had a drastic impact on programs and the ability to conduct in-person visits. Be prepared to discuss how things are different this year (especially data) in the context of COVID. If you’re interested to learn more about FY21 Monitoring, you can also watch the Office of Head Start FY21 Monitoring Kickoff webinar.

Preparing for a FA2 review is an important component of risk mitigation in Head Start/Early Head Start. By investing time in preparation, you can make improvements ahead of your official review and be better positioned for a successful review. Once the FA2 review is conducted, you can use the results to further improve your program as part of a DRS risk mitigation strategy.

Foundations for Families’ Consulting Services include 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.

Thank you.

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