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Early implementation of the Head Start Designation Renewal System: Volume I [Executive summary]

In 2011, ACF expanded its accountability provisions for the Head Start program through the implementation of the Head Start Designation Renewal System (DRS). Before 2011, Head Start grants were awarded for indefinite periods. The Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act of 2007 required that Head Start grants be awarded for a five-year period. Furthermore, the Act required ACF to develop a system for identifying which grantees provide high quality comprehensive services and can receive automatic grant renewal at the end of the 5-year period; and which grantees are not and will be subject to open competition to receive renewed funding. The DRS was developed in response to these provisions and identifies seven conditions of designation renewal. If a Head Start grantee does not meet any of the conditions, they receive automatic renewal of their grant. If a Head Start grantee meets any one of the seven conditions, the grant is subject to an open competition for future funding. From 2011 to 2015, 453 Head Start grants were designated for competition based on DRS (ACF 2011, 2013, 2014; OHS 2015a). Because the DRS represents a major change in the accountability structure for Head Start and has significantly changed the way ACF administers and manages the program, at the request of ACF leadership, the ACF Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE) commissioned a study of DRS implementation, including how the system is addressing its goals of transparency, validity, reliability, and stimulating program quality improvement efforts. The study's purpose is to understand the mechanisms by which the DRS might support program quality improvement, ask whether the DRS identifies grantees providing lower-quality services for designation for competition, and examine the results of grants competitions in terms of the types of applicants that received awards and their efforts to improve services in the community. The study is observational and cannot address causal relationships (e.g., does DRS improve quality of services, or do grantees change their policies and practices because of the DRS) and could not document whether quality improved over time within all grantees or even in the sites designated for competition. The goal of the study is to describe early implementation of the DRS and to ask whether the DRS appears to incentivize grantees' efforts to improve quality during monitoring or competition. (author abstract)
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Executive Summary

Related resources include summaries, versions, measures (instruments), or other resources in which the current document plays a part. Research products funded by the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation are related to their project records.

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