What are the Focus Area One and Focus Area Two Monitoring Reviews?
The Head Start Act section 641A outlines that the Secretary of Health and Human Services is responsible for promoting a comprehensive federal monitoring and oversight system. The system must assess program compliance with regulations applicable to Head Start programs. These regulations include regulatory requirements documented in the Head Start Program Performance Standards, the Head Start Act, the Code of Federal Regulations, etc. In response to this requirement, the Office of Head Start develops and continuously assesses and updates its monitoring protocol, measuring the quality of Head Start program practices. Current monitoring activities include Focus Area One, Focus Area Two, CLASS, Follow-Up, and Special Reviews carried out at the federal and regional levels. Monitoring activities include tasks such as interviews with governance, leadership, staff, parents, and sometimes partners.
These interviews are coupled with observations, program and financial document reviews, and data analysis. Although monitoring protocols consider differing communities across the nation that create variations in what quality may look like, the one common thread that aligns every program in the nation is that every single one, regardless of size and scope, will be monitored.
What is the Focus Area One Monitoring Review?
The Focus Area One review is the Office of Head Start’s opportunity to hear from recipients about their program design, management, and governance structures. Program staff must describe a program approach that indicates compliance with the Head Start Program Performance Standards, including adequate staffing structure and responsive program designs. Recipients will describe education, health, and family services that indicate effective systems. Finally, fiscal and government representatives will share compliant and quality practices that meet and exceed the Office of Head Start performance expectations.
This review process is an off-site interview-based event. Reviewers will review data, documents, and reports in the Head Start Enterprise System and other sources to understand the program and its community’s needs. The Reviewers will also consult with the Regional Office Program and Grant Specialists to expand their understanding of the organization and its program before the monitoring event. After the reviewer establishes a framework for the agency and its services, they will conduct a series of interviews, facilitating discussions to ensure the plans and practices established by the program promote quality service delivery that meets the needs of children and families.
What is the Focus Area Two Monitoring Review?
The Focus Area Two Monitoring Review is the Office of Head Start’s opportunity to ensure programs can demonstrate effectively, high-quality programming that promotes positive outcomes and kindergarten readiness for enrolled children and families. This data-driven monitoring event is designed to expand the Office of Head Start’s understanding of a grant recipient’s performance and to make certain it meets the regulatory requirements of the Head Start Program Performance Standards, the Code of Federal Regulations, and the Head Start Act.
This monitoring review is an onsite demonstration-based review. Programs are expected to describe systems and practices that meet and exceed their regulatory agencies and must, in turn, provide documentation that validates these systems and practices.
The monitoring experience often invokes anxiety in Head Start agency teams. The Gravely Group works with program leaders and staff to alleviate this anxiety. This work includes normalizing the monitoring protocols, helping grant recipients understand connections between monitoring performance measures and corresponding regulatory requirements, and unearthing risks and best practices in advance of monitoring visits. Creating these monitoring practices and learning spaces helps programs create review-ready systems and plans, relieving anxiety while fostering confidence.