HHS considers new standards for Head Start programs

HHS considers new standards for Head Start programs
© Getty Images

The Obama administration is considering new performance standards for Head Start programs across the country. 

The proposed regulations the Department of Health and Human Services unveiled Tuesday would require all programs to serve preschoolers for a full school day and a full school year. 

The new standards for the program, which aims to prepare children of low-income families for elementary school, would consolidate the 1,400 current Head Start regulatory standards, eliminate unnecessary and duplicative rules and raise the standards that drive program performance.


Instead of written plans, the standards urge program administrators to set goals, collect data and use the data collected to improve performance. Instead of specific hygiene and safety requirement, the proposed standards focus more on keeping children safe.

HHS said its regulations now are too focused on micromanagement.

“Head Start serves more than one million children and their families each year,” the agency said in its rulemaking. “The combination of Head Start’s size and scope, the experience and input gained, and the major developments in early childhood research suggest that the time is right to capitalize on this knowledge and experience by overhauling the regulations that form the backbone of the comprehensive, high quality services Head Start programs strive to deliver.”

In a news release, HHS Secretary Sylvia BurwellSylvia Mary Mathews BurwellThe biggest revelations from Fauci's inbox What a Biden administration should look like Bogeymen of the far left deserve a place in any Biden administration MORE said the revised standard provide the building blocks for future success.

“As a Head Start kid myself, I know firsthand the power Head Start has to instill a lifelong love of learning,” she said in a statement. “By reducing the unnecessary bureaucratic burdens and applying the latest research and best practices in our Head Start programs, we will help more children onto the path of success.”

The public has 60 days to comment after the proposed standards are published in the Federal Register on Aug. 18.