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Mel Gravely

Proposed Changes to Head Start’s Performance Standards

Head StartLast month, Office of Head Start, Administration for Children and Families, and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released their much-anticipated proposed changes to the Head Start program performance standards.

Head Start is one of the longest-running anti-poverty programs in the country. The performance standards are an enormous collection of highly specific rules mixed with more fluid guidelines that dictate nearly every detail on how a grantee should develop and run their program.

For such an important document, the standards aren’t revised as frequently as you may think. The last revision was in 1998. And as many policy watchers have noted, this is the first comprehensive overhaul since the standards were first published in 1975.

Probably the biggest change in the standards is the increase in minimum program hours. Currently, Head Start centers must provide services for at least 3.5 hours per day and 128 days per year. The new proposed minimum is six hours per day and 180 days per year. This will follow the lead of other early childhood education providers and childcare institutions who already provide full-day programming.

Other changes include streamlining regulations and reducing redundancy. HHS hopes that this will allow more flexibility at the local level to serve the specific needs of the community, as well as encourage additional agencies to apply for funds by removing burdensome requirements.

The Gravely Group feels that these new standards give Head Start a much-needed makeover without changing the core purpose and function of the program. The proposed standards are up for public comment until August 18, 2015. The full 485 page document can be read here.

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