WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the President will announce important steps to improve the quality of services and accountability at Head Start centers across the country. The Department of Health and Human Services will implement new rules that will – for the first time – require all low-performing Head Start grantees that fail to meet a new set of rigorous benchmarks to re-compete for continued federal funding.
This reform will help direct taxpayer dollars to programs that provide high-quality Head Start services and ensure Head Start programs provide the best available early education services to children in every community. Today’s announcement is part of a series of actions President Obama has taken because America’s children only get one chance and can’t wait for help getting a world-class education.
“We can’t wait to give more of our youngest children the same basic opportunities we all want for our kids. That’s why today, I’m announcing a new rule that will increase the quality of Head Start programs around the country,” President Obama said. “After trying for months to work with Congress on education, we’ve decided to take matters into our own hands. Our future is at stake. Our children deserve action. And we can’t wait for Congress any longer.”
“With this new rule we are introducing unprecedented accountability in the Head Start program,” said U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. “Head Start has a critical mission – to help children from low-income families achieve their full potential and, in turn, help our country build tomorrow’s workforce. It is a top priority for the Obama Administration to ensure that the program fulfills that mission by holding programs to high standards for classroom quality and program integrity. We owe Head Start children the highest quality services available to prepare them for school and for life.”
Head Start provides grants to local organizations to provide comprehensive child development services to low-income children and families. Today, there are nearly1,600 Head Start and Early Head Start grantees across the country providing early learning services to nearly one million of our nation’s most vulnerable infants, toddlers and preschoolers.
This reform in Head Start builds on bipartisan policies enacted in the most recent revision of the Head Start legislation in 2007. The rules were crafted by the Obama Administration with extensive input from a national advisory committee, parents, educators, child development experts and the public. The new quality benchmarks are transparent, research-based, and include standards for health and safety, and fiscal integrity. They will measure Head Start classroom quality based on a rigorous, validated evaluation tool to determine which programs are – and are not – providing high-quality services.
Over the next three years, the Department of Health and Human Services will review the performance and program quality of all Head Start grantees. Those that don’t meet the quality benchmarks will be required to compete for continued funding.
The new benchmarks mandate that any low-performing Head Start grantee will have to compete for funding if they have deficiencies discovered in their onsite review, fail to establish and use school-readiness goals for children, or demonstrate low performance in the classroom quality evaluation. In addition, grantees will also be required to compete for federal funding if their state and local licensing has been revoked, a Head Start grant has been suspended or if fiscal or management issues prevent them from properly manage federal funds.
Based on analysis of current program performance data, it is estimated that one-third of all grantees will be required to re-compete for continued funding under this new rule. HHS will notify the first group of Head Start grantees that will be required to compete for continued funding in December 2011.
Going forward, all Head Start grants will be converted to five-year grants and each program’s performance and quality will be evaluated every five years to determine whether the grantee meets the benchmarks or must compete to receive another grant.
Head Start is administered by the Office of Head Start in the Administration for Children and Families, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Strengthening Head Start
Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, President Obama invested $2.1 billion in Head Start and Early Head Start, expanding these programs to reach an additional 61,000 children and families. The President has also made reform of the Head Start program a high priority, and has committed to ensuring that every Head Start center provides a high-quality environment. While the majority of Head Start programs provide quality services to children and families, we need to ensure that children receive the full support needed to begin school ready for success.
Head Start is widely recognized for its comprehensive approach – programs promote early literacy and numeracy, while supporting good nutrition habits, physical activity, and positive social and emotional development. The rule announced today is an essential part of the Obama Administration’s strategy to strengthen Head Start and to raise the bar on quality, particularly for lower performing programs.
The Obama Administration has taken additional steps to improve quality in Head Start programs, including:
Promoting School Readiness for America’s Children
The years prior to kindergarten are among the most significant in shaping a child’s foundation for learning and school success. Today’s announcement builds on a comprehensive early learning agenda to help provide the support needed for children to succeed in school and in life: