What is the Quality Initiative?

QI is the premier program recognizing and supporting the performance excellence of Head Start programs across the country through the designations of Program of Achievement and Program of Excellence.

How does review work?

A panel of professionals with extensive knowledge of and experience in Head Start will review the application components and evidence and score the 41 NHSA Quality Indicators to determine if the program has met the NHSA Quality Initiative criteria.

How to Apply

Become recognized as a Head Start Program of Achievement or a Program of Excellence and join a community of some of the best educational programs and leaders across the country!

Driven by NHSA’s mission to coalesce, inspire, and support the Head Start field as a leader in early childhood development and education, The NHSA Quality Initiative: Head Start Performance Excellence and Quality Recognition program is the only program of its kind recognizing and supporting excellence and outstanding performance of Head Start programs across the nation.

Head Start program applicants must provide specific evidence of financial intergrity, program accountability, innovation, compliance with the Head Start Program Performance Standards and other regulations and comprehensive quality. Comprehensive quality is demonstrated through the 41 NHSA Quality Indicators, a rigorous set of evidence-based, well-established criteria in performance excellence and specific to the systems and services in Head Start.

Head Start program applicants who successfully demonstrate how they meet the NHSA Quality Initiative criteria will earn the designations of Program of Achievement and Program of Excellence.




"We appreciate having the opportunity to receive recognition for our quality work at the Program Level. We have many measures of quality at center level, but the Quality Initiative addresses the bigger picture. I believe this recognition has helped us in opening doors to share our quality initiatives with others." - Audubon Area Community Services, Inc. Head Start, Owensboro, KY.

Benefits of Earning the NHSA Quality Initiative Designation

Participation in the NHSA Quality Initiative entitles Head Start programs to:

  • Be distinguished as a Program of Achievement or a Program of Excllence. These designations are earned only by programs that consistently demonstrate excellence in program management and service performance, and that continually support the achievement of robust outcomes for at-risk children birth to five years-old, pregnant women, families, and their communities.
  • A thorough organizational evaluation, designed specifically for Head Start, that supports and recognizes quality and performance excellence and which enables program staff to identify strengths and areas for continuous improvement.
  • Announcements of your designation sent by NHSA to your Senator, House Representative and State Governor.
  • Recognition and spotlighted features at the NHSA Annual Head Start Conference and on NHSA website, social media, and e-newsletter.
  • Use of the NHSA Program of Excellence and Program of Achievement logos--nationally recognized symbol of distinction in Head Start programming.
  • Entrance into a community of some of the best and most innovative educational programs across the country as well as a forum for leaders in Head Start to share their ideas and accomplishments.