Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–September 1, 2016. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced new standards today to further improve and strengthen the Head Start program.
The Head Start program promotes the school readiness of children (from birth to age five) from low-income families through early learning, health and family services. Nationwide, Head Start programs have served more than 33 million children and their families since the program’s inception in 1965.
The new standards announced today are the first comprehensive revision of the Head Start Program Performance Standards since they were originally published in 1975. The updates reflect best practices and the latest research on early childhood development and brain science. The new standards are designed to reduce the achievement gap by fostering healthy child development and school readiness for all children served by Head Start programs.
“The new standards strengthen educational practices and are based on the best research about how children learn and develop,” said HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell. “The standards we are announcing today will expand the number of children attending Head Start for a full school day and year, ultimately ensuring that nearly all children have access to such programs by 2021.”
Highlights of the new standards include:
- Raising educational standards, curriculum requirements, and professional development expectations based on the best research to ensure effective teaching practices in Head Start, so that programs achieve strong child early learning outcomes.
- Increasing the amount of time children spend in Head Start, which research shows promotes better outcomes for children.
- Affirming the role of parents in leadership of the Head Start program, and strengthening parent engagement services by providing opportunities to participate in program activities and targeting intensive family services to where they are most needed.
- Strengthening comprehensive services, including health and safety practices, mental health, services for children with disabilities, and support for dual language learners.
- Reducing the bureaucratic burden on programs, cutting the current 1,400 Head Start regulatory standards by approximately 30 percent.
“The standards build on the strengths of local communities by fostering local partnerships and giving programs flexibility to meet the specific needs of local children and families,” said Linda Smith, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Early Childhood Development. “At the same time, these standards set a high bar for safety and quality for all Head Start children. They also align Head Start requirements with new federal child care requirements, such as background checks and health and safety trainings.”
Head Start provides services to over a million children every year in every U.S. state and territory, in farmworker camps and in over 155 tribal communities.
The President’s FY 2017 budget for the Head Start program proposes an additional $292 million to increase the number of children who are eligible to attend Head Start for a full school day and full school year, building on the investment made by Congress in FY 2016. Strengthening Head Start standards improves services so that programs have a stronger impact on child outcomes, promoting greater success in school as well as higher returns on taxpayer investment.
“The new standards for the program will reduce the current 1,400 Head Start standards by approximately 30 percent, eliminating many prescriptive and duplicative requirements while improving services to children and families in Head Start,” said Blanca Enriquez, director of the Office of Head Start. “We have listened to parents, staff and experts around the country as we worked to improve the Head Start program.”
Video on Head Start and the new standards:
HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell announces the new Head Start Final Performance Standard Rule
For more information on the new standards, visit: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/ohs/policy