Last week, the Administration for Children & Families (ACF) announced the second group of Head Start programs that will be required to recompete for funding as part of the Designation Renewal System. In total, 122 agencies have been notified.
The Office of Head Start released an official statement on December 7th from its national Director, Yvette Sanchez Fuentes. Fuentes confirmed that the first round of grantees who submitted re-designation applications in July and August would not be notified of their status until Spring 2013. Most assumed the announcement would come at the end of the year after the 250 chosen panelists had completed their reviews. But it seems that is not the case.
Some are already speculating on what’s taking so long. The statement from OHS doesn’t do much to explain what is causing the delay. However, they do clarify that funding has already been extended through the end of the school year for the 130 agencies that have applied. The good news is that services for these families will not be interrupted at least for the time being. However, some are wondering if fears about the so-called “fiscal cliff” are playing a part in the delay.
As applicants get closer to hearing the status of their application, many may be nervous about the future of their programs. Sometimes waiting with uncertainty is the most difficult part of the entire process.
The Gravely Group will continue to update our blog with any new updates on DRS/Re-competition. Stay tuned.
OHS Applicant Support Website – This site offers a robust collection of resources to provide a deeper understanding of the Head Start and Early Head Start programs, the funding process, and the evaluation criteria.
Designation Renewal – List of Head Start grantees designated to compete, the link to forecasted grant opportunities, and up-to-the-minute Administration for Children and Families policy decisions impacting competition.
With so people served in so many ways by Head Start, there are literally millions of phenomenal people that have benefited from the continuously improving Head Start performance standards.
Take for example, Angel Tavares, Mayor of Providence Rhode Island, who still remembers graduating from a Head Start program in South Providence, and who still has the small scroll he was presented with that day to prove it. The reaches of Head Start manifested to Angel at Harvard of all places. There he learned his roommate from Poughkeepsie, New York also attended Head Start.
He says, “My roommate joked, ‘There must be something about that program!’” We know there is. Now, as Mayor of Providence Rhode Island, Angel Tavares believes 1/3 of eligible children enrolled in Providence Rhode Island Head Start programs is simply not enough when there are so many more children, families, and communities that can benefit from Head Start. As Mayor, Tavares, has made it a priority of his office to increase that percentage because it’s “good but it’s not good enough.”
Good, but not good enough means there\’s room for improvement. I have to agree with Mayor Tavares, our performance standards are good, but as generations change, the struggles facing low-income families and communities, and of course state and federal administrations change, so too must Head Start improve, progress and develop. That’s why we’re here. Performance standards have been an important secret to the success of Head Start. And since the Obama Administration took office, Head Start has been charged with enhancing the quality of classroom instruction.
● What do performance standards mean at your Head Start facility?
● What does it mean to enhance performance standards at your facility?
“A renewed era of innovation, improvement and integrity in Head Start is here,”. “Helping all children realize their dreams and potential will help us build tomorrow’s workforce, strengthen our economy, and fulfill America’s promise,” Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
In September 2010, the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services announced it’s nationwide initiatives to enhance performance standards. They include:
● Training and technical assistance centers will support Head Start programs
PURPOSE: To bring best practices into Head Start classrooms around the country, promoting continuous improvement and innovation at the ground level.
● Expert mentors/coaches in a number of Head Start programs across the country
PURPOSE: To provide on-the-ground training to teachers and program directors, to help them improve their classrooms.
● 10 exceptional local Head Start programs as Centers of Excellence
PURPOSE: To provide peer-to-peer technical assistance.
Much of this boils down to improving school readiness which is a long term measure of success for Head Start programs nationwide. In “Improving School Readiness and Promoting Long Term Success,” released by the Department of Health and Human Services, increasing every head start child’s exposure to effective appropriate learning experiences both in the program and at home,” is the first way performance standards can be improved.
Within the Head Start program, this means that teachers provide age-appropriate, classroom activities that provide children with meaningful experiences focused on specific learning objectives.
Changes to the Head Start Program Performance Standards, include:
● Classroom activities children engage in everyday, will place an increased emphasis on foundational literacy, math, and science skills
● Promoting healthy social emotional and physical development in Head Start children.
At home, it means that Head Start program’s staff and administrators work in collaboratively with families to help them best understand how to support and reinforce the learning that goes on during a typical Head Start day.
For the 40 years that I’ve been working to enhance the early lives of young people and the adults that support them, it’s been a special privilege and pleasure to serve the Head Start community.
The mission of Head Start is to promote school readiness by enhancing the social and cognitive development of children through education, health, nutrition, social and other services for children and families. I wonder if President Lyndon B. Johnson imagined when he declared the War on Poverty and signed the Economic Opportunity Act in 1964 paving the way for Project Head Start in 1965, that Head Start would eventually enroll more than 27 million children since 1965.
Could Johnson foresee his initiative would serve over 900,000 toddlers, preschoolers, infants and pregnant women in 2010 alone?
Did Johnson envision that in 1972 when a small 10% was set aside to serve children with disabilities, the move would result in 11.5 percent of the children served by Head Start in 2010 would have disabilities such as mental retardation, visual handicaps, hearing impairments, speech and language impairments, alongside learning disabilities?
There have been so many children successfully served by Head Start programs, and there will always be more children, families, and communities to serve.
Unlike pre-kindergarten, only families at or below the poverty line have access to Head Start. And most importantly — Head Start focuses on the whole child, while pre-K focuses most specifically on the academic development of the child. This means, we know part of what makes Head Starts successful is that it does more for children, families and communities than pre-kindergarten, but like most federally funded programs, we are charged with demonstrating that we provide vital and necessary services to our most vulnerable: our children. Our children are counting on us to improve, be better and unlock the secrets that continue to make Head Start successful.
We know there are some secrets that continue to withstand the tests of time, presidencies and generations.
● Performance Standards
● Team Building
● Parent Participation
These three secrets continue to make Head Start successful for the 27 million children the program has served. But what we know is that it takes constant focus and attention in each area equally to serve the next 27 million. Over the next several weeks in a four-part series of blogs, I’d like to focus on more ways to improve performance standards, team building, and parent participation, so Head Start continues its success.
In a recent story in The Blade, board members of the Economic Opportunity Planning Association (EOPA) questioned how the agency is preparing to reapply for a $13 million grant to continue running its Toledo Head Start agency.
Due to the Head Start Recompetition Process, EOPA was recently notified by the federal government it will have to compete for funding if it wants to continue to administer Head Start locally.
There is nothing unusual with this story until what happened next. EOPA board members decided to go into a closed-door session to discuss the previously released grant criteria. Many other local for-profit entities, including the Toledo Public Schools are expected to apply.
It turns out the EOPA executive board’s request for a closed-door session to discuss public matters is a violation of Ohio’s” Sunshine Law, meaning state law requires open public meetings. In addition, entering a closed executive session can only happen legally with a roll call vote. A reporter from The Blade who was present objected to EOPA’s closed meeting and filed a lawsuit for holding what was deemed an illegal executive session.
These types of actions are likely happening around the country. There are benefits to recompetition of existing Head Start agencies that could use a restart. The 132 Head Start grantees programs in question have identified deficiencies and because of that, may now lose funding. Yes, there is a threat to both jobs and students served in these programs. However, these concerns neglect a fundamental point. This is a “recompetition.” Current grantees are not simply being de-funded. They are recompeting for their grants against other potential providers who may come forward. The whole point is to identify the best available provider to continue delivering top services to children and communities–not to cut services.
If anything, many communities are concerned that not enough low-performing Head Start grantees will lose funding, because there is a lack of quality providers with the capacity to replace them.
Without the recompetition for grants of existing Head Start providers, there is no sustained effort to identify and build the capacity of high-performing providers to compete for Head Start grants, which carry an array of very complex requirements.
What are your thoughts –will recompetition of these 132 grantees create higher quality pre-school programs for Head Start?
The School Readiness Act of 2007 offered improvements to ensure that school readiness is a top priority for all the children they serve. In general terms, the Office of Head Start has defined school readiness to mean:
- Children are ready for school
- Families are ready to support their children’s learning
- Schools are ready for children
As programs work to contribute to children’s learning and development, Head Start leaders articulate the knowledge and skills needed for preschool children in social, emotional, cognitive/language and physical development. Clear identification of these factors demonstrates when a child is “school ready.” By understanding the goals and skills needed, Head Start staff can plan and implement the most effective curriculum, assessments, and teacher-child interactions.
Head Start has long defined school readiness as children being prepared for success in school and for later learning in life. In addition, for parents and families, school readiness means they are engaged in the long-term, lifelong success of their child.
The Office of Head Start’s approach to school readiness involves three major frameworks. The frameworks promote an understanding of school readiness for parents and families. They also lay the foundation to implement systemic and integrated comprehensive child development services and family engagement efforts that lead to school readiness for young children and families. Visit the links below to learn more about these frameworks:
With Head Start’s “On the road to school readiness” approach, resources are available for local agencies to establish goals and metrics, implement and plan, determine priorities for improvement, and track progress. Look for more details here.
In addition, be sure to check out the school readiness FAQs to fully understand what it means for our children.
Is there a program or method you’ve implemented locally that should be included here? If so, please share your comments below.
In a recent blog post, Parent Involvement is Key to Children’s Success, we talked about how closely linked a child’s later success in life is tied to parent involvement in their educational process.
Equally important is the role of Head Start staff in promoting and sustaining supportive family partnerships. These partnerships, characterized by mutual respect and trust, acceptance, objectivity, flexibility, personalized attention, and cultural awareness make up the foundation of Head Start’s program success.
Head Start Staff refers to:
- Program Directors – include family partnership agreements as an integral part of their Head Start program’s mission, goals, and services
- Program Managers – work to professionally develop staff
- Educators and Staff – regularly interact with families to enhance their family-partnership skills
Developing family partnerships is an ongoing process, beginning with a child’s enrollment in a Head Start program and continuing until the family has made a successful transition from the program.
Staff development that includes skills needed to fully implement this partnership is a continuous process. Ways in which Head Start Staff contribute to its success:
- Develop a mutually respectful partnership with families to enhance the quality of their lives and their communities
- Give families support to reach their goals
- Offer opportunities for parents to engage in group activities, including policy groups and educational activities based on interest and need
- Encourage children and families to participate in family literacy activities and services
- Promote and support parent involvement and leadership throughout the program
- Raise family awareness of community resources
- Assist families in crisis
- Respect and respond competently to each family’s culture, traditions, lifestyle, language, and community
- Initiative effective program practices and maintain a commitment to professionalism
Head Start’s ongoing effectiveness training is enhanced through the Competency Goals and Indicators for Head Start Staff Working with Families. Head Start staff use these guidelines and indicators to review and update job descriptions and qualification standards. They can also use them to guide the selection, training, and supervision of family workers.
Additional resources to help staff — the heart of family partnerships — be the most effective they can be:
Are there additional resources you find beneficial in training Head Start Staff? If so, please include them in the comments below.
Imagine 27 million lives forever changed by Head Start.
Since 1965, more than 27 million Americans have participated in the Head Start program and benefited through “The Window of Opportunity,” offering success in school and life. With more children in need of services now, than at any time before, National Head Start Association (NHSA) has declared 2012 to be “The Year of Opportunity.”
A video released last October explores opportunities Head Start provides for children in poverty they might never get otherwise. Maria Shriver, narrator of the fanciful video “What is the Window of Opportunity?” is a fitting choice. Her father, Sargent Shriver, first conceived the program in 1965 to help communities meet the needs of disadvantaged preschool children. As part of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty, he helped locate funds to implement the program and assembled a committee of experts.
There is no stronger testament to what Head Start can do than hear the story of how a hungry child carried through the doors of a center grew up to be a teacher, an artist, or a Member of Congress. When listening to the many videos, stories and testimonials displayed on the National Head Start Association’s website, you can’t help but notice that not only have these alumni benefited from the program, but their family reaped the rewards as well.
Gathering alumni from centers across country, NHSA will invite 27 to Nashville, TN on April 18, to celebrate the 2012 Day of Opportunity. This sample of alumni will represent the 27 million success stories of Head Start since 1965.
Every Head Start and Early Head Start center has a critical role to play by identifying 27 Head Start success stories in its community – including alumni, parents, staff, and volunteers – anyone who has witnessed the transformative power of the program. Check out the program standings so far. NHSA will be accepting testimonials all year long and celebrate at other events. However, only those submitted before March 20, 2012, will be considered for the Day of Opportunity.
What can you do?
- Share your story on video or testimonial
- Tell your local Member of Congress how Head Start has shaped your life
- Other ways to get involved
Currently, more than 5 million infants and children in need are unable to access Head Start. The best argument we can make to protect and expand this program comes from you. I urge you to lend your voice and your stories to this project. Together we are more than just numbers; we are the legacy of Head Start.
In my previous post, I talked about President Obama’s new guidelines for the Head Start program, and how I believe they will encourage competition between the Head Start agencies.
A little history about the new guidelines: In 2007 President Bush reauthorized the Head Start program by signing into law the Head Start Readiness Act of 2007. This amendment established that Head Start grantees would be awarded grants for a period of five years; but only those delivering high quality services would get their grants renewed for an additional five years.
The final ruling of the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) established a renewal system to determine if Head Start agencies are meeting the educational, health, nutritional, and social needs of the children they are serving. The agencies must also meet program and financial management requirements and standards. These new guidelines recently went into effect on Dec. 8 and included several benchmarks. Those that don’t perform to the benchmarks will have to compete for their funding. President Obama stated in a recent speech that this is the first time in history that Head Start programs will be held accountable for their performance in the classroom.
All Head Start agencies receiving grants will be reviewed by Health & Human Services, based on their performance in the following areas:
- Family involvement
- Safety and nutrition
- Financial management
- Previous license suspensions
- Classroom management
I want to focus this discussion on classroom management, since that is my area of expertise. The Head Start Readiness Act of 2007 included a requirement that an evaluation instrument called CLASS: Pre-K be used in monitoring and observing teacher-child interactions in the classroom. This is important because now we have a tool that will measure progress and accountability.
These changes will require managers to become better and improve their classrooms! When classrooms are managed better, doesn’t it ultimately benefit the children; the reason why we are here? There’s always room for improvement — in our jobs, our classrooms, and in other areas of our lives as well.
I would like to know how you plan to embrace these new guidelines. Are you familiar with the CLASS: Pre-K tool? How will you hold your classroom accountable? Please feel free to post your comments below.
Head Start made the news this week as President Obama announced new guidelines for programs receiving the grants. Head Start programs will now be required to meet certain standards, or benchmarks, in order to qualify for renewal of their grants. The feds will be taking money from programs that aren’t working and putting the money into those that are successful. This involves more than 1600 programs across the country operating around 49,000 classrooms.
In other words, each program will now have to compete for funding. I think this is a good step in the right direction.
A report released last year found that Head Start, which receives more than $7 billion in federal funding, created no long-lasting academic gains. This is not good news, especially for the preschool children, for whom the program is intended to help.
As I travel to various Head Start agencies around the country, I see many differences from program to program. There are some teachers and managers doing great work in their classrooms. And I see others that could use some improvement. Obama’s new guidelines will now encourage every Head Start manager and teacher to be better. And isn’t that better for the children overall?
I love these new standards. Competition is healthy; Head Start should not be an entitlement program for the schools. Just as in the private sector, where businesses have to keep improving their operations in order to stay competitive and keep customers, the federal government will reward those programs that are doing their best to improve children’s long-term academic gains.
In my next post, I will discuss each of Obama’s benchmarks and ask you what you think.
What do you think of Obama’s new guidelines for the Head Start program? Do you agree with them? Why or why not? I would love to hear your thoughts.
We are very excited about our new blog and hope to have productive and insightful dialogue about trends, issues, and available resources to enhance and strengthen Head Start agencies. You can also join conversations with the TGG Head Start Group on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/company/the-gravely-group. Please feel free to post any questions, comments, or suggestions regarding program governance, performance standards and effective meetings.