GM 11-131

New Head Start Rule to Improve Program Quality and Accountability

On November 9, 2011, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published the final rule that addresses the Head Start and Early Head Start requirements contained in the Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act of 2007 (Act; PL 110-134). That Act required the HHS to: 1) develop and implement a designation renewal process to asses if a Head Start/Early Head Start agency is or is not a high quality comprehensive program; and 2) recompete the award when a Head Start agency/grantee is under-performing. This is a major rule with regard to the standards to which Head Start agencies will now be held and the consequences of not meeting those standards.

The final rule, 23 pages in the FEDERAL REGISTER, is available at The effective date of the regulation is December 9, 2011.

Briefly, the changes and additions to Head Start and Early Head Start regulations:
• Establish a Designation Renewal System of seven criteria which will determine whether a Head Start/Early Head Start agency delivers “high-quality services to meet the educational, health, nutritional, and social needs of the children and families they serve and meet program and financial requirements and standards” as defined in the Act; (see § 1307.3)
• Provide that Head Start/ Early Head Start grantees not meeting the Designation Renewal System benchmarks and standards must compete for continued funding; except for tribal programs, which has a separate process as described below
• Provide that Head Start/Early Head Start programs deemed to be providing high quality services will be awarded a five-year non-competitive grant period
• Set forth a three-year transition period to implement the “Designation request, review and notification process” (see § 1307.7) whereby in year one any grantee which is determined to have any of the deficiencies as described by ACF will be notified they must compete for funding; at full implementation all grantees will be on a five-year grant cycle and undergo an evaluation every five years

With regard to tribally-operated Head Start/Early Head Start programs that are determined to not be providing a high quality program, § 1307.6 provides that the Department will enter into a government-to-government consultation with the affected tribal government for the purpose of developing a correction plan. The plan must be developed and implemented within six months, and a re-evaluation completed within six months of the plan’s implementation. If the reevaluation determines the Indian Head Start program is still underperforming, an open competition will be conducted. A non-Indian Head Start program is not eligible to assume a program unless an eligible Indian Head Start program is not available. In such cases, the non-Indian Head Start program takeover would be on an interim basis until an eligible Indian Head Start program becomes available.

If we may be of further assistance regarding the Head Start rule, please contact us at the information below.