Continuous quality improvement is a central belief of any Head Start program, with the goal of meeting Performance Standards and moving toward program excellence. As part of this process, the annual Self-Assessment provides programs with the means to regularly assess their own management systems and program operations in order to continually strengthen the program.
Head Start Performance Standards clearly state that at least once each program year agencies must conduct a Self-Assessment of their effectiveness and progress in Federal Regulations.
How can Head Start programs be sure that the services they provide meet these objectives as well as strive to continuously improve the quality of services?
By using the Self-Assessment grantees can annually assess how specific aspects of their program’s operations impact services delivered. Self-Assessment is not an isolated event, but along with ongoing monitoring, is an integral part of a planning cycle. Programs seeking continuous improvement should regularly ask the questions:
- Is the program meeting all national Head Start Performance Standards?
- Are our services responding effectively to the changing needs of families?
- Are we doing what we need to, or are we just doing it the way we have always done it?
So who is responsible for the Self-Assessment?
Most Head Start directors engage a team of program managers and leaders in outlining a process and timeline for conducting the Self-Assessment and analyzing the results. The results of the Self-Assessment serve as a driving force in determining needs for program improvement.
The Head Start director does not pursue this process alone. The Self-Assessment process provides an opportunity for involving program leaders, such as parents, Policy Council members, and Governing Body members for making staff more aware of how the program operates and is viewed by its families.
What do we do with the information we collect in the Self-Assessment?
The Self-Assessment has little importance unless the Head Start program uses the information to drive program enhancements. Self-Assessment results should be used as a driving force to develop program improvement goals, desired outcomes, and action plans. Both the results of the Self-Assessment and the plan for program improvement should be communicated widely to the governing body, staff, Policy Council, parents, and community partners.
Vince Lombardi once said, “Most people fail not because of lack of desire but because of lack of commitment.” Stay committed to you children and families and you will be pleasantly surprise about their progress.