Apr 22017

While the New Head Start Performance Standards are not brief, they are somewhat lighter than the old. The numbers of the standard have been reorganized with many standards removed, to reduce the bureaucratic burden.

According to Blanca Enriquez, Director of the Office of Head Start, “The new standards for the program will reduce the current 1,400 Head Start standards by approximately 30 percent, eliminating many prescriptive and duplicative requirements while improving services to children and families in Head Start.”

However, one thing hasn’t changed, parents and families are still at the forefront in the new standards. Look at the numbers in the new standards:

Family Engagement is mentioned 20 times.

Family is in 224 times.

Parent is stated 222 times.

Although many standards have changed, we must remember this: Head Start is a family-centered program. It’s why the program even exists in the first place. We serve the families in our communities. The needy, the special, the mixed; they are Head Start, and let us make them a part of us.

This must be felt in our daily tasks, and evidenced in our to do list. We must make sure each staff member is trained in this area, from the bus driver to the kitchen aide. It is easy to forget, to get caught up in the school readiness, data, meetings and more. But we must not, we cannot, let a day go by without reaching out to our families.

Head Start/Early Head Start families are so wonderful. They are a mixed group of teenagers and parents and grandparents, struggling to live and make a better tomorrow. They are diverse, and yet so many share similar needs. Let us help them create a better future – for themselves, for their children, for our head start programs.

It is up to us to ensure that this message is felt-in our corridors, at our staff meetings, and by our parents.

Posted by Melvin Gravely at 10:33 pm
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Jan 302017

head start advisory committeeOne new and exciting part of the new Head Start Performance Standards is a section on Advisory Committees. Now remember, this is still part of the program governance section – 1301.2 Governing Body (aka your board). I quote:

“Advisory committees.

  1. (1) A governing body may establish advisory committees as it deems necessary for effective governance and improvement of the program.
  2. (2) If a governing body establishes an advisory committee to oversee key responsibilities related to program governance, it must:
    1. (i) Establish the structure, communication, and oversight in such a way that the governing body continues to maintain its legal and fiscal responsibility for the Head Start agency; and,
    2. (ii) Notify the responsible HHS official of its intent to establish such an advisory committee.”

In determining if your program would benefit from an advisory committee, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Are your board meeting constantly derailed by topics your board is struggling with?
  2. Do you feel additional input is necessary or beneficial?

An advisory committee may be very helpful if you are constantly struggling to work out a certain part of your program. Say you’re having trouble with school readiness. Your goals aren’t working well, the teachers haven’t caught on to the assessment, some are flaunting the rules. An advisory committee specializing in this may be helpful.

However, you must remember, the buck stops at the board. By establishing the advisory committee, you aren’t absolving your governing body of the legal and fiscal responsibilities. To the contrary, you must be vigilant that these standards are maintained throughout your entire program, including the advisory committee/s.

Don’t forget, as noticed above, you’ll need to notify your program specialist about your intent to establish such a committee. Is the red tape going to prevent some agencies from establishing such committees? Perhaps.

Share your opinion about advisory committees in the comments and help your Head start friends!

Posted by Melvin Gravely at 2:20 pm
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Dec 142016

2016 was another roller coaster year for Head Start programs. In November, the finalized changes to the Head Start Performance Standards took effect. Many changes have a schedule of implementation, with the most impactful change – providing full school days to 100% of slots – expected to be in place by 2021. There were also small tweaks to ERSEA requirements, a renewed focus on parent committees, and of course, training, training, and more training.

In other news, we went over the FY2016 Leadership, Governance, and Management Systems (LGMS) Protocol in exhaustive detail, covering all four key performance areas #1 Planning, #2 Developing, #3 Implementing, and #4 Evaluating. Nationally, NAACP and NHSA announced a joint initiative, and national publications highlighted the need for high-quality preschool for everyone.

With all these changes afoot, we at The Gravely Group realized that Head Start is going to need strong leaders moving forward. So we developed a renewed focus on the subject. We gave several free webinars on leadership, added a leadership component to our existing training modules, and wrote several articles on the issue, including the five abilities of an effective leader, the importance of a leadership plan, and 10 ways to demonstrate parent leadership.

Overall, 2016 was a chaotic year for many, and with the new political administration coming in 2017, there are many unknowns. However, as one of the longest-running anti-poverty programs in US history, Head Start has not only survived, but thrived. The Gravely Group looks forward to the future and continuing to serve our clients, who in turn persevere despite the many unknowns, to serve the most vulnerable population of all… children.

More highlights from our blog in 2016
Four Ways to Grow Your Strong Early/Head Start Team
Sharing Data to Maximize Impact
What is Your Organizations Employee Onboarding Practice?
Relationship Between Head Start Governing Body and Policy Council
The Role of Advisory Committees in Head Start Program Governance
10 Responsibilities of Individual Board Members
Professionalism in Head Start
Growing Parent Participation
Using Texting as a Tool to Help Increase Parent Engagement
Focusing on Fatherhood in the New School Year

Posted by Melvin Gravely at 11:52 am
Dec 102016

The new Head Start Performance Standards didn’t change much on the area of the policy council/committees. Since this was already revised in the Head start Act, it largely remained the same.

Establishing policy councils and policy committees. “Each agency must establish and maintain a policy council responsible for the direction of the Head Start program at the agency level, and a policy committee at the delegate level.”

Composition “Parents of children currently enrolled in each program option must be proportionately represented on the policy council…” They key word here is proportionate. So no having half your members who are parents of home-based children, if 90 percent of your program is center-based.

Responsibilities in the Head Start Act “The policy council shall approve and submit to the governing body decisions about each of the following activities:

  1. Activities to support the active involvement of parents in supporting program operations, including policies to ensure that the Head Start agency is responsive to community and parent needs.
  2. Parent recruitment, selection, and enrollment priorities.
  3. Applications for funding and amendments to applications for funding for programs under this subchapter, prior to submission of applications described in this clause.
  4. Budget planning for program expenditures, including policies for reimbursement and participation in policy council activities.
  5. Bylaws for the operation of the policy council.
  6. Program personnel policies and decisions regarding the employment of program staff, including standards of conduct for program staff, contractors, and volunteers and criteria for the employment and dismissal of program staff.
  7. Developing procedures for how members of the policy council of the Head Start agency will be elected.
  8. Recommendations on the selection of delegate agencies and the service areas for such agencies.”

Within the new Head Start Performance Standards, none of this is really new when it comes to policy council, but it is merely clarified again for you to remember. We encourage you to read the policy council requirements and set aside time in your next meeting to review them with staff and parents.

Interested in training for your policy council? Check out what The Gravely Group has to offer. Call or email today and get your agency up to date with what they need to know.

Posted by Melvin Gravely at 10:12 am
Nov 92016

pre-service-trainingTraining takes front and center stage in Head Start. In order to run a fully compliant Head Start program, I’m sure you’ve realized by now that plenty of training is needed. What does the governing body need to know?

In Part 1301.5, I quote “An agency must provide appropriate training and technical assistance or orientation to the governing body, any advisory committee members, and the policy council, including training on program performance standards and training indicated in Part 1302.12(m) to ensure the members understand the information they receive and can effectively oversee and participate in the programs in the Head start agency.”

Okay, if you read the new Head Start Performance Standards by now (I hope you did!), you know that it’s all about determining, verifying, and documenting eligibility. Let’s take a look at what training we need on that:

“(1) A program must train all governing body, policy council, management, and staff who determine eligibility on applicable federal regulations and program policies and procedures. Training must, at a minimum:

(i) Include methods on how to collect complete and accurate eligibility information from families and third party sources;

(ii) Incorporate strategies for treating families with dignity and respect and for dealing with possible issues of domestic violence, stigma, and privacy; and,

(iii) Explain program policies and procedures that describe actions taken against staff, families, or participants who attempt to provide or intentionally provide false information.

(2) A program must train management and staff members who make eligibility determinations within 90 days of hiring new staff.

(3) A program must train all governing body and policy council members within 180 days of the beginning of the term of a new governing body or policy council.

(4) A program must develop policies on how often training will be provided after the initial training.”

There sure is a lot to cover. Want to get your staff trained by professionals that know what they are doing? Check out what The Gravely Group has to offer. We specialize in training Head Start governing bodies, and look forward to helping you with this. We fly all over the country, to a myriad types of programs. Call or email today and get your staff up to date with what they need to know. Remember, training in Head Start is never a one-time thing. As noted in the standards, training, especially for governing body and policy council, needs to be ongoing. So get in touch with The Gravely Group, and get your staff trained by top professionals. You’ll be glad you did!

Posted by Melvin Gravely at 10:06 am
Oct 132016

parent-engagementSo, with much debate and fanfare, the parent committee is back and part of the updated Head Start Performance Standards! Are you excited?

“A program must establish a parent committee comprised exclusively of parents of currently enrolled children as early in the program year as possible. This committee must be established at the center level for center-based programs and at the local program level for other program options. When a program operates more than one option, parents may choose to have a separate committee for each option or combine membership. A program must ensure that parents of currently enrolled children understand the process for elections to the policy council or policy committee and other leadership opportunities.

Requirements of parent committees. Within the parent committee structure, a program may determine the best methods to engage families using strategies that are most effective in their community, as long as the program ensures the parent committee carries out the following minimum responsibilities:

  1. Advise staff in developing and implementing local program policies, activities, and services to ensure they meet the needs of children and families;
  2. Have a process for communication with the policy council and policy committee; and
  3. Within the guidelines established by the governing body, policy council or policy committee, participate in the recruitment and screening of Early Head Start and Head Start employees.”

How does your program run your parent committee? You now have greater flexibility with it. You can choose to run a group for each program option or not. What do you think will work for your parents? This will probably change, as the parent body keeps changing.

Do you attach parent committee meetings to trainings? This may be an easier way for you to get parents together. Hosting an inviting breakfast, lunch or potluck dinner while getting your parent committee’s input can be a great way to encourage active participation. Respect the parents time by preparing the topics to be discussed. Staff can give a monthly update to the parent committee with a brief overview of what’s happening. Remember, this is also a time to build leadership with the parents. You want them to learn how to effectively navigate their way and learn to advocate for their child.

Take input seriously. Listen to what parents are saying. Validate them and work through their concerns. That is what Head Start is about, and that is why the parent committee was reinstated. Let’s not forget the stars of our program. Help them succeed, and your program will be better for it.

Posted by Melvin Gravely at 1:48 pm
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Sep 222016

universal-preschoolThere aren’t a lot of changes to the ERSEA (Eligibility, Recruitment, Selection, Enrollment, and Attendance) requirements for Head Start in the new Performance Standards. However, there are a few important changes to note. As one of the 10 Head Start Management Systems, ERSEA specifies key elements and requirements to create and maintain a Head Start Program that is successful. The new Performance Standards make clear that ERSEA will continue to be monitored closely to keep Head Start programs running as efficiently as possible.

For example, the standards have always made clear that the program should have attendance rates of 85 percent or higher as an overall average. However, individual attendance records for each child were not required. The new standards now require attendance to be tracked for each individual child enrolled in the program, with the goal of giving teachers and staff additional data to deal with chronic absenteeism among certain children.

In addition, there is now a more detailed list of the Community Assessment process. Most of the list includes practices which are in use now, but were not in the performance standards previously. This includes conducting an in-person interview with each family or a telephone interview if necessary, verifying information given, and creating an eligibility determination record for enrolled participants.

And lastly, for American Indian and Alaskan Native programs (AIAN), one of the changes to the verification of eligibility is the expansion of the definition of how a tribal program can propose a service area where members of Indian tribes or those eligible reside. That can include, but is not limited to Indian reservation land, areas designated as near-reservation by the Bureau of Indian Affairs provided that it is approved by the governing council, Alaska Native Villages, Alaska Native Regional Corporations with land-based authorities, Administration for Children and Families, HHS Oklahoma Tribal Statistical Areas, and Tribal Designated Statistical Areas where there is not a federally established reservation.

These requirements will be monitored by Head Start to make sure programs are reliable and are adhering to standards which will help improve how programs run as well as make sure that children in a program are given the chance to succeed in life.

Posted by Melvin Gravely at 1:24 pm
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Sep 72016

preschoolThe New Head Start Performance Standards are already making headlines around the world. How will they impact you? Here are some things you need to know.

1. You have sixty days from publication to read and put into effect many of the changes, November 7, 2016. However, for rules that changed significantly the effective dates are staggered with additional time given to implement the rule, ranging from 2017-2021. Check the compliance dates in the final rule in the Compliance Table. OHS is urging Head Start staff and stakeholders “to take the time to read the final rule in its entirety, including the preamble and the text of the regulation” and “use this interim period to make adjustments as needed to assure full compliance with the new HSPPS.”

While it may seem advisable to try to jump the gun, and make lots of changes really quick, remember what Head Start is about. Involve your parents. Involve the board and stakeholders. And, perhaps equally as important involve the line staff who will actually be impacted and involved. Brainstorm ways to keep the level high, without putting more stress on staff.

The new guidelines allow some flexibility; use what you need. Head start guidelines are difficult enough; don’t seek to rush into them without clearly thinking about this. We are in this together. Talk to other program leaders. Seek guidance and training from the proper sources, so that governing bodies are fully informed. Share suggestions and thoughts in the comments.

2. Reducing the bureaucratic burden. The numbers of the standard have been reorganized with many standards removed. According to Blanca Enriquez, director of the Office of Head Start “The new standards for the program will reduce the current 1,400 Head Start standards by approximately 30 percent, eliminating many prescriptive and duplicative requirements while improving services to children and families in Head Start.”

However, I do advise you to bear in mind that this will also require you to overhaul your Head Start Service Plan. As you read and train, keep that in mind. And for those of you who memorized the numbers, you have a task ahead of you. (Yes, there are people who knew these standards in their dreams!)

3. Training, training, training. You know that’s what Head Start is about, right? Training and planning for implementation of the new standards will need to take place with staff, governing bodies, and parents. The Office of Head Start will provide T/TA opportunities to learn about the new standards at every level—from grantee management staff, boards, and Policy Councils to federal and contract staff and T/TA providers. Federal program specialists were trained in person, in August, on the new standards. There will be a webcast and question and answer session with OHS leadership. Look out for a virtual HSPPS Showcase that will address specific areas of the new standards, which will become available on the ECLKC early September. Additionally, OHS promises to update us about monthly webinars to support understanding and implementation. Other places to learn: Check out the schedules of regional, state, and national conferences throughout this year, where OHS and T/TA staff will present on the new standards. The OHS Birth to 5 Leadership Institute in the spring will focus on a culmination of all the learning.

4. Parent Committees. One much spoken about rule, which almost changed was reinstated. The requirement for parent committees is back into the new Standards, in order to maintain and strengthen family partnership. So let’s keep our parents, boards, policy councils involved in this ride!

Stay tuned for further updates.

Posted by Melvin Gravely at 5:53 pm
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Aug 82016

FAQsYou may ask what the benefits are of familiarizing Staff and Policy Council with the Head Start Act 2007 and the Program Governance.

First, the Performance Standards was published in 1974 and revised in 1996 and again in 2015, with the most recent proposed changes scheduled to take effect in school year 2017.  The Performance Standards are the Bible for operating Head Start programs across the county.

The Act provides a detailed referral mechanism and process for Head Start Staff to utilize when ensuring that the Policy Council/Committees and/or Parent Committees are functioning in accordance with guidance of the Head Start Act.

If staff is more knowledgeable and have the ability to articulate the contents of the Performance Standard, the likelihood increases that these councils / committees will successfully strive to ensure that children receiving services are being properly developed and a quality education is provided.

Within Head Start there is a process that has to be followed when making decisions about organizational structure, resources, programming, etc. In most cases there are one or more layers of the process: the board makes the decision based off information provided by the policy council/committee.

However, things are much different when it comes to a Head Start Policy Council as there could possibly be up to four layers of process that must be adhered to before a decision is ratified.

In summary Head Start staff/policy council members who understand the policies and the structure of the program governance will have a strong Head Start program that will function as mandated in the Head Start Act.

Knowing your decision making process will prevent any unnecessary internal conflict and/or legal issues down the road.

For more information on our program governance training, please contact us.

Posted by Melvin Gravely at 12:40 pm
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Nov 112015

Head Start Designation RenewalYasmina Vinci, Executive Director of the National Head Start Association (NHSA), recently penned a blog for The Huffington Post’s Education section, called “Head Start Designation Renewal System 2.0.” In it, Vinci discusses some of the lessons we’ve learned after three rounds of designation renewal, and talks about NHSA’s recommendations for improving the system.

The entire blog is definitely worth a read. However, we wanted to briefly summarize the two recommendations being put forth by the NHSA to improve the Designation Renewal System (DRS), and get your feedback. Here’s what they’re recommending:

1. Overhaul the CLASS (Classroom Assessment Scoring System) 10% trigger – Currently, programs must compete if they are in the lowest 10% of CLASS scores for their region. Here, Vinci and the NHSA are advocating for a consistent CLASS score threshold that will trigger recompetition, rather than a sliding scale based on region.

2. Address problems that are not “severe, frequent, or systemic” through means other than recompetition – Here, NHSA is advocating for the formation of a national committee that will review deficiencies and give programs a chance to correct them before they are forced to enter recompetition.

What do you think about the suggestions made by NHSA? Do you agree? Leave your comments below!

Posted by Melvin Gravely at 1:10 pm
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