Obama to Improve Quality in Head Start Programs

For the first time ever, the Department of Health and Human Services will implement rules that will require all low-performing Head Start grantees that fail to meet a new set of rigorous benchmarks to re-compete for continued federal funding, says the White House.

The reform is directed to help process taxpayer dollars into programs that provide high-quality Head Start services and ensure Head Start programs provide the best early education services to children in every community.

“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.”

The reform in Head Start builds on new rules crafted by the Obama Administration with extensive input from a national advisory committee, parents, educators, child development experts and the public, the press release says.

The new quality benchmarks are transparent, research-based, and 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.

“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.”

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.

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. 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.

The Obama Administration has taken additional steps to improve quality in Head Start programs, including evaluating Teacher-Child interactions in Head Start classrooms, improved training and assistance in Head Start programs, Head Start Centers of Excellence and mentorship across Head Start Programs.