Head Start Welcomes Administration’s Review of Designation Renewal System

Posted on December 8, 2017

NHSA Has Led Community in Advocating for Reforms
of DRS

National Head Start Associa
tion today applauded an announcement from the Administration that it will reevaluate a regulation that NHSA has long argued
is ineffective, arbitrary, and unnecessarily burdensome on Head Start programs.
Earlier today, the U.S. Department of Health 
and Human Services released an
official request for comments on a proposal that would change the Designation
Renewal System’s (DRS) us
e of the CLASS tool, including the removal of the
arbitrary lowest 10 percent provision and the adjustment of the minimum
thresholds across all three domains. This announcement was publicly made by
Steven Wagner, the Acting Assistant Secretary at HHS’ Administration of
Children and Families, during remarks at NHSA’s 2017 Parent and Family
Engagement Conference this morning.

“The Head Start community
commends the leadership of the US Department of Health and Human Services for
proposing a long overdue change to a policy, the Designation Renewal System,
that has caused unnecessary and counterproductive anxiety for programs,” NHSA
Executive Director Yasmina Vinci said. “The Head Start community is committed
to providing our nation’s most vulnerable children and families with an
opportunity to succeed in school and in life. This commitment includes an
embrace of accountability, such as that included in the DRS. However, while
CLASS is an effective and valuable tool for professional development, it has
not been effectively applied in the DRS as a measure of quality.”

Vinci continued, “We look
forward to discussing the potential changes with the entire Head Start
community and other stakeholders, who share the Administration’s goal of
ensuring Head Start is meeting its full potential. Our children, families, and
communities -- and the American taxpayer -- deserve no less.”

Established in the
Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act of 2007, the DRS was intended to
identify grantees offering lower quality services based on a series of
triggers, place their grants up for open competition, and award the grants to
the applicant most qualified to provide high-quality programming. An HHS report
released last year stated, “No analyses indicated that grantees designated due
to low CLASS scores differed from grantees that were not designated on any
study measure of quality.”

NHSA has advocated for
years for reform of the DRS in meetings with federal lawmakers and
administration officials. In a 2015 letter to HHS leadership that was signed by dozens of state
and regional Head Start associations, NHSA laid out specific and concrete
recommendations for changes that would address the major flaws within the DRS.
These suggestions were the result of a symposium convened by NHSA that included
conversations with grantees, former federal officials, former Congressional
staff, researchers, and others about how to strengthen DRS for the future.