When it comes to the Designation Renewal System (DRS), 2017 was both busy and quiet. As the year comes to a close, we await the posting of the sixth cohort of DRS competitive grants. There are 51 DRS competitive grants estimated to post on January 17, 2018. At that point it will have been over 6 months since we first saw some of these grants forecasted (initially, DRS proposals planned to be wrapped up by now!). 2017 kicked off in the midst of round 5 DRS proposals being prepared, which means it will have been over a year between the round 5 and round 6 Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) posting dates.

Unlike DRS rounds in the past, the Office of Head Start (OHS) didn’t formally announce the grantees selected as part of DRS round 5 in early 2017. Similarly, OHS hasn’t put out an official announcement about DRS round 6. We – like many of you – are wondering whether there will be more competitions opening than what is currently forecasted on grants.gov. There is also some uncertainty about how the FOA will look. While it seems reasonable to expect that the core components will be quite similar to DRS rounds in the past, the delays and also the release of the new Head Start Grant Application suggest that there could be some changes. With just a few weeks until FOAs post, we won’t need to wait much longer to find out!

Even though it has been over a year since the last round of DRS FOAs posted, there hasn’t been a shortage of other changes that impact DRS. As you remember, we started the year with the new Head Start Program Performance Standards (HSPPS). 2017 brought compliance dates for a number of the new standards. You’ve been making important changes in the way you plan for and implement the standards. There are even more compliance dates on the horizon in 2018 – related to QRIS, data systems, and staff qualifications to name a few.

The release of the new performance standards in late 2016 was coupled with the release of Aligned Monitoring System 2.0 (AMS 2.0) less than one year later. AMS 2.0 reflects the nature of the new HSPPS in that it is more streamlined and allows grantees flexibility within the standards to design and implement a program that best meets the community’s needs. The approach of Focus Area 1 and Focus Area 2 reviews is new and different than monitoring of the past. Grantees are working toward compliance with the new HSPPS as well as adapting to a new monitoring approach. More than ever, it will be important that programs establish a strong foundation for reviews and take steps to help ensure positive outcomes from monitoring reviews to help avoid DRS.

Recently, as the year neared its close we saw OHS issue a request for comments related to proposed changes to the CLASS condition of DRS. As part of that announcement OHS broadly solicited suggestions related to the DRS criteria generally. Comments are due early February, and it will be interesting to see what changes are made to the CLASS condition (or other conditions!) of DRS in 2018.

Thank you for following our DRS blog in 2017. We look forward to bringing you updates, insight, and new content in 2018!

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