NHSA strongly believes that thoughtful design and effective implementation of the Head Start program must be driven by the wisdom and experiences of practitioners and the families they serve. Through Working Groups, Taskforces, and on-going dialogue with communities across the country, NHSA has created stakeholder-informed positions on the key regulatory systems for Head Start.
The Head Start Program Performance Standards guide daily best practice in programs across the country. To find out more about the new Head Start Program Performance Standards that went into effect in November 2016, click here.
In the 2007 reauthorization, Congress called for revisions to the Head Start Program Performance Standards. NHSA's Standards Working Group worked from 2013-2014 to gather practitioner input, make recommendations for streamlining standards while retaining the key components of Head Start, and respond to other opportunities for input into the revision process. Read the Working Group's recommendations for more detail and visit NHSA resources on the NPRM and comment period.
The Aligned Monitoring System, first implemented by the Office of Head Start in fall 2014, was greatly influenced by the work of NHSA's Monitoring Task Force, which came out with recommendations in 2012 that included the creation of a data dashboard, increased use of critical success indicators, differential monitoring based on past performance, and broader use of programs' audits. NHSA continues to work with the Office of Head Start to educate programs about the Aligned Monitoring System, get quick answers to questions that arise, and pursue a monitoring system that not only ensures compliance but encourages excellence.
Head Start programs receive Training and Technical Assistance (T/TA) from the federal sources at the state, regional, and national levels as well as through a set-aside within their budgets for support based on local needs. NHSA has made several recommendations about the most effective design for this system as it evolves.
For fifty years, researchers and programs have worked to better understand the long-term effects of Head Start programs. NHSA's Investing in Impact Working Group has brought together leaders from the Head Start community to share practitioners' views of their most important impacts and to inform national dialogues about the design and implementation of Head Start.
In 2014, Congress allocated $500 million for Early Head Start Expansion and Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships. NHSA and the California Head Start Association worked together with a group of stakeholders to create the EHS-CC Partnership Project, providing recommendations to the Office of Head Start and resources for programs creating and sustaining partnerships.
Since 2011, the Office of Head Start has administered the Designation Renewal System, which calls for "low performing" grantees to compete with other agencies to provide Head Start to their communities. NHSA and the Head Start field support the pursuit of high-quality services for all children and families, but have pursued reforms to the system to strengthen its implementation and better serve its intent.
Despite the critical roles they play in the lives of vulnerable children and families, Head Start teachers and staff are often compensated with near-poverty level wages. Appropriate recognition of teachers' work and compensation for their important efforts are a major issue facing the Head Start community.