Head Start: Challenges in Monitoring Program Quality and Demonstrating Results. Report to Congressional Requesters.Report as inadecuate

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There has been increasing concern about the accountability of federal programs in complying with laws and regulations and in achieving desired results. At the request of Congress, the Government Accounting Office examined how the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) ensures Head Start accountability. Data were collected by means of interviews with federal regional, and selected local officials; and reviews of selected grantees' program files. Findings indicated that Head Start's mission, goal, and objectives do provide an overall performance assessment framework emphasizing compliance with applicable laws and regulations and achievement of program results, with specific program activities linked to the strategic mission and goal. By specifying measurable performance objectives, Head Start can answer questions about compliance and achievement of its purpose. Although HHS has processes to ensure compliance, implementation could be improved. Of concern is the consistency of HHS on-site inspections of local agencies, due to differences in reviewers assessments. Although HHS has strengthened emphasis on achieving program purposes, the processes provide too little information about how well programs are achieving their intended purpose. New evaluation initiatives will provide information on program outcomes not previously available, such as gains in child vocabulary, literacy, and social skills and families' self-sufficiency. Although HHS will collect data from all programs, there is no established plan or schedule for doing so. The HHS planned analysis will not enable the Department to determine with certainty that Head Start participation caused improvements because results will not be compared to a group of children and families similar in all respects except Head Start participation. (KB)

Descriptors: Accountability, Comparative Analysis, Compliance (Legal), Early Childhood Education, Educational Quality, Evaluation Methods, Evaluation Research, Federal Programs, Preschool Education, Program Evaluation, Research Problems

U.S. General Accounting Office, P.O. Box 37050, Washington, DC 20013; phone: 202-512-6000; fax: 202-512-6061; e-mail: info[at]www.gao.gov; World Wide Web: http://www.gao.gov (First copy free. Additional copies, $2 each).

Author: General Accounting Office, Washington, DC. Health, Education, and Human Services Div.

Source: https://eric.ed.gov/?q=a&ft=on&ff1=dtySince_1992&pg=12571&id=ED422087

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