Extended Duration refers to lengthening the hours of services that Head Start offers individual children and their families. The goal is to increase children's learning and developmental outcomes by providing more hours of high-quality learning experiences. The Extended Duration requirement was included in the 2016 Head Start Program Performance Standards.

Longer hours also support families who are working or in school. Children and families from at-risk backgrounds are relying on their Head Start programs to be a source of stability as they navigate life’s challenges. Extended Duration supports Head Start programs to create a nurturing and enriching learning environment for babies and young children, while also partnering with their parents to realize their professional and educational goals.

Extended Duration Advocacy Timeline

In 2015 the Office of Head Start (OHS) released a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) for the Head Start Program Performance Standards with many research-based updates and revisions to improve the overall ease of use of the Standards. One of the proposed changes required all Head Start services for three- and four-year-olds to be center-based for six hours per day, 180 days per year unless a program was approved to offer a locally-designed option.

In response to the NPRM, NHSA recommended that extending duration be treated as a goal rather than a requirement. Without new funding, the change could reduce access. NHSA's formal comments, supported by every state and regional association and hundreds of programs and individuals, proposed extended duration call for 1,020 hours of services tp ensure flexibility for programs to meet local needs. NHSA's Crosswalk of Standards and Policies on Full-Day Head Start provided a comparison of the current Standards, the NPRM, NHSA's comments, and the Program Instruction.

Congress acknowledged both the importance of increasing duration and concerns about having to reduce access to critical services to implement duration expansion. In 2016, Congress appropriated $294 million as a down payment to help programs increase hours. The 2017 budget requested an additional investment of $292 million to enhance quality in Head Start.

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