Early Implementation of the Head Start Designation Renewal System: Volume I & II

Publication Date: November 4, 2016


Created in 2011, the Head Start Designation Renewal System (DRS) is an accountability system to determine whether Head Start grantees are delivering high quality and comprehensive services and to implement a competitive grant making process in communities where they are not.

This report presents findings from a formative evaluation of the DRS. The purpose of the study was to:

  • evaluate the early implementation of the DRS,
  • describe the mechanisms by which the DRS supports program quality improvement,
  • examine how well DRS is able to identify grantees providing lower quality services for competition, and
  • describe the results of competitions.

In general, the study’s findings suggest that DRS is meeting its goal of supporting quality improvement in Head Start by incentivizing grantees and applicants to engage in a wide range of quality improvement activities. Results suggest DRS conditions differ in their ability to differentiate higher versus lower-quality Head Start programs. In particular, study findings raise concerns about the precision of the CLASS as a measure of grantee-level quality and about its ability to identify lower-performing programs for competition.

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