Cohort 5 - Head Start Grantees Required to Compete for Continued Funding is Released : Head Start in 2019
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Cohort 5 - Head Start Grantees Required to Compete for Continued Funding is Released

by Andrea Abbott on 06/21/16

On May 26th, the Fifth Cohort of Head Start grantees designated to compete for funding was released (click here to view). This list included 12 programs, which is significantly fewer than in past years. The programs are from 10 states as follows: California (1); Colorado (1); Illinois (1); Kansas (2); Maryland (1); Michigan (1); Oklahoma (1); Pennsylvania (1); Texas (1); and Virginia (1)

This release follows an earlier list of 10 service areas that were posted during the months of March, April and May.  According to our analysis, most of the programs included in Cohort five have CLASS scores that are in the lowest 10% of all grantees or scores that do not meet the threshold for 2015. While several programs have also met specified conditions that trigger their entry into recompetition we continue to be concerned that CLASS plays such as large role in programs’ entry into DRS. The following reasons underscore our opinion on this issue:

  • CLASS is a valid measure but the way the OHS is using it is not reliable. In order for the CLASS to be scientifically reliable for identifying the lowest quality programs in the country OHS would need to observe all programs every year using the same federal review process. This activity would produce data necessary to determine which programs are truly in the lowest 10% in the nation in regard to their CLASS scores. The way the current system is implemented the scores could skew based on the random sample of programs that are monitored during the federal review process. For example, if the programs reviewed in a given year were all high performing it would skew the CLASS scores higher, thus increasing the minimum threshold for all programs. If a program does not meet this threshold it does not necessarily mean that the program has the lowest quality among all programs.
  • There is no guarantee that new Head Start grantees have higher CLASS scores or more experience than programs that lose their grant due to recompetition. In many cases, programs that enter the designation renewal system have lost their grants to programs with less experience. This is becoming more and more frequent. One trend to watch is the degree to which new grants are awarded to child care partners associated with the Early Head Start - Child Care Partnerships program as the Early Head Start – Child Care Partnerships program is expanding the Head Start program into new communities and new types of entities. This is increasing the number of agencies that have experience with the Head Start program which can earn you valuable scoring points on the recompetition grant narrative.
  • Other early intervention preschool programs are not held to this standard. Let me qualify this point by saying that, yes Head Start is the “gold standard” of early education programs and should be held to a higher level of accountability due to the vulnerable nature of the children served and the level of federal investment in Head Start. However, the field has not defined the “essential elements” of high quality preschool programs in a manner that has been scientifically validated. We do know about key features of effective interventions, but we do not know “what works, under what conditions, for which children”. Using CLASS to recapture funding is putting the cart before the horse.

Comments (1)

1. Amy Cubbage said on 7/8/16 - 04:35PM
Thank you, as ever, for the helpful blogs and newsletter articles, including fantastic tip sheets! A note of clarification on the CLASS: the CLASS isn’t reliable in scientific terms. But, it is valid: you can count on the CLASS to measure what is predictive of positive developmental and academic outcomes for children, and it has been validated through more than a hundred studies. In research terms, however, tools aren’t reliable on their own. People can be trained to sufficient reliability with successful completion of CLASS observation training and reliability testing. Furthermore, the use of the CLASS tool in DRS emphasizes the critical importance of teacher-child interactions, and we must ensure the DRS methodology, including the bottom 10% trigger, does not distract from the fundamental focus on interactions. I appreciate the discussion and commitment to explore ways to improve the design of DRS to support continuous quality improvement!

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