Head Start Designation Renewal System--Round One Negotiations Begin

Apr 15, 2013

By Stephanie Schmit

The Office of Head Start has recently announced the results of the first round of the Head Start Designation Renewal System (DRS), which requires all lower-performing Head Start grantees that fail to meet a new set of rigorous benchmarks to re-compete for continued federal funding.  

Of the Head Start grantees required to re-compete for their funding in the first round of DRS, 80 maintained their funding, 25 will be replaced by new programs and 14 grantees will have their grants split between new and existing providers. 160 potential grantee agencies entered into negotiations with HHS starting last week. The list of grantees and further information is available on the Administration for Children and Families website.

The "Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act of 2007" requires DRS as a way to identify Head Start programs in need of improvement and maintain the quality of this critically important program for our countries' poor children and their families. The DRS was created through regulation that became effective in December 2011.

The regulation outlined seven conditions that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) considered in determining whether or not programs are delivering high quality, comprehensive services - and this, in turn, was used to identify programs that were required to re-compete for their existing Head Start contracts and funding.  The seven conditions include:

  • One or more deficiencies in  budget and fiscal management data, annual audits, and classroom quality (under section 641A(c)(1)(A), (C), or (D) of the Act)
  • Failure to establish school readiness
  • Failure to meet minimum thresholds on the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS): Pre-K domains
  • Revocation of a license to operate a center or program
  • Suspension from the Head Start program
  • Debarment from receiving Federal or State funds or disqualification from the Child and Adult Care Food Program
  • Having one or more material weaknesses or being at risk for failing to function as a going concern

The competition for the second round of DRS will begin in the spring. Grantees were notified in January if they met the conditions and will be required to re-compete.

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