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Head Start Considering Changes to Create ‘Less Burdensome’ Competition Process

December 8, 2017
Christina Samuels
Education Week

Since 2011, Head Start programs that fail to meet certain performance standards have been required to compete for continued federal funding.

The competition process, known as the designation renewal system, is intended to weed out low-performing grantees in the federal early-childhood program. But soon after it was established, providers started complaining that the process for identifying low performers was sweeping up high-quality programs as well. Head Start serves more than a million infants, toddlers, and young children in every state and territory.

The Office of Head Start, which is administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is now considering making some changes that would address those complaints. In a request for comments to be published in the Federal Register on Dec. 8, Head Start is proposing adjusting some standards of the designation renewal program, with the goal of zeroing in more closely on Head Start programs that really need to improve.

The proposed changes were announced at the National Head Start Association’s Parent and Family Engagement conference on Thursday by Steven Wagner, the acting assistant secretary of HHS’ Administration of Children and Families.

NHSA, an independent organization that represents the nation’s approximately 1,700 Head Start grantees, applauded the move.