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June 16, 2015
Contact: ACF Press Office

HHS Proposes Vision for the Future of Head Start, Releases New Performance Standards

Raises the bar on quality, expands program to full school day, full school year, reduces regulatory burden by one-third

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced today important steps to improve the quality of services at Head Start programs across the country. HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell unveiled the first comprehensive revision of the Head Start Performance Standards since they were originally published in 1975.  Improving these performance standards, which provide the foundation for practices and policies in every Head Start program, builds upon past efforts from the administration to improve and strengthen Head Start in order to deliver on the President’s call to provide children with access to high-quality early childhood experiences. The revised standards reflect a vision for how to raise the bar on quality for all Head Start programs and build on the programs’ history of success to help more children onto a path to school success.

Head Start performance standards are the foundation for Head Start’s mission to deliver comprehensive, high-quality individualized services to support the school readiness and healthy development of children from low-income families.  The proposed regulation will update standards to reflect best practices and the latest research on what works in early education to foster healthy child development and school readiness.

The proposed rule sets an expectation that all programs operate for a full school day and full school year; raises education standards to reflect current research on brain development, early learning, and effective practice; and builds teacher skills and improves classroom performance through a system of evidence-based, individualized professional development. 

The new proposal that programs serve Head Start preschoolers for a full school day and a full school year is based on research and evidence that shows that students who spend more time in high quality early learning programs learn more and better prepared for kindergarten.

The revisions significantly reduce the current 1,400 Head Start regulatory standards, by eliminating unnecessary and duplicative rules while setting high standards that will drive program performance. By bringing the regulations into the 21st century, program directors around the country can focus on outcomes for children and families instead of spending time and resources on unnecessary requirements that do not improve or ensure the quality of the program.

Speaking today in Chicago at the Nia Family Center, which offers Early Head Start and childcare services, HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell said: “These proposed standards provide the building blocks for the success of future generations of Head Start kids.  As a Head Start kid myself, I know firsthand the power Head Start has to instill a lifelong love of learning.  By reducing the unnecessary bureaucratic burdens and applying the latest research and best practices in our Head Start programs, we will help more children onto the path of success.”

The proposed standards maintain and strengthen Head Start’s commitment to comprehensive services, including health and family engagement, which are central to helping children succeed and are a hallmark of Head Start. The proposal also maintains and strengthens Head Start’s high standards on child safety.

“The proposed standards build on past efforts from our administration to strengthen the Head Start, and put forward a blueprint for building programs that help children to learn, grow and flourish,” said Blanca Enriquez, director of the Office of Head Start, “We consulted extensively with experts, practitioners, and the Head Start community in the development of this proposal so that the proposed regulation would be based on the latest research and best practices in early education.  We look forward to using the feedback we will receive during the public comment process to make these standards even stronger.”

The public is invited to submit comments on these proposed standards, which are due 60 days after publication on August 18, 2015. 

The proposed regulation may be viewed at https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2015/06/19/2015-14379/head-start-performance-standards

Note: All HHS press releases, fact sheets and other news materials are available at https://www.hhs.gov/news.
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Last revised: June 16, 2015

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