Today, the Department of Health and Human Services announced important new changes to the Head Start program that build on this Administration’s efforts to improve services for our country’s youngest children.
From the first days of the Administration, Head Start has been at the heart of the President’s early learning agenda. This Administration has more than doubled the number of infants and toddlers in Early Head Start. Recently, the President requested an additional $1.5 billion increase in the Head Start program – the largest proposed funding increase for the program since the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – to help ensure every Head Start child can benefit from a full school day and year of high-quality services.
Today’s step is the next in this effort, strengthening Head Start program’s Performance Standards for the next generation of children and families it will serve.
We know more today than we ever have about what our children need to be successful later in life. We know that the first five years of a child’s life are critical to shaping a child’s foundation for learning, healthy development, well-being, and later school success. We know that a child’s learning begins at birth, and takes shape as they are nurtured, challenged, and engaged in high-quality environments and relationships with parents, family and caregivers.
Armed with that knowledge, we have brought the best evidence and research to bear in revising and strengthening Head Start’s Performance Standards. The performance standards are the foundation for Head Start – they set forth the requirements all local grantees must meet to support the cognitive, social, emotional, and healthy development of children from birth to age 5. In place since 1975, these performance standards have experienced revision periodically but have not undergone any change since 1998. Our children and families deserve nothing less than the highest quality standards.
Based on the outcomes in our best Head Start programs, and high-quality state-supported preschool programs, we know that the current minimum standards in Head Start are insufficient to yield the strong, lasting outcomes that prepare children for success in school and life.That is why we have proposed changes to ensure that all Head Start children receive access to a full school day and year of services.
We believe the changes announced today will lead to more positive outcomes for Head Start children and promote greater success in school and beyond. In today’s announcement, we set high standards for curriculum, staff development, and program duration – all based on research and effective practice. We retain the focus on family engagement and comprehensive health and nutrition service for all Head Start children. We clarify that Head Start programs are prohibited from engaging in suspension or expulsion of children, and, most significantly, this announcement ensures that all Head Start children receive more than double the amount of exposure to high-quality instruction and services compared to current program minimums.
For more than 50 years, Head Start has made a difference in the lives of America’s children and families. Whether it’s the 20 children and families supported by Head Start’s services on the Havasupai reservation from the floor of the Grand Canyon, or the nearly 20,000 children served in Chicago’s neighborhoods, our Administration could not be more proud of the work Head Start does to strengthen and support our nation’s greatest and most valuable resource: our children.
We are excited to announce these changes and believe that these new standards will better support the healthy development, safety, and early learning of Head Start children for years to come.